Link to move in page

Global navigation
Global navigation end
From here to text

Before th Conservative Alliance

The development of postwar democracy in Japan began with the end of the Second World War on August 15, 1945 and the start of the Allied Occupation.

In the decade from the end of the War to the Conservative Alliance and the formation of the Liberal Democratic Party in 1955, Japan's economic, social, and political structures underwent dramatic change in response to rapid democratization and shifts in Occupation policies. The struggle to cope with these changes continued even after the conclusion of the Peace Treaty in 1951 as great efforts were made to recover from the aftereffects of Occupation politics. This period of "Preparation," then, can aptly be described as one in which the country struggled to cope with the often painful changes that accompanied the establishment of democratic rule.

In August of 1945, the Liberal Party was formed under the leadership of Ichiro Hatoyama. A number of other political parties with diverse policy platforms soon appeared after that, including the Socialist Party of Japan (Nihon Shakai-to), Japan Progressive Party (Nihon Shimpo-to), Japan Cooperative Party (Nihon Kyodo-to), and Japanese Communist Party (Nihon Kyosan-to).

The political scene remained extremely fluid as political purges ordered by the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces (GHQ) and other forms of intervention in Japanese politics continued. In addition, election results dramatically affected the fortunes of individual political parties.

The Japan Cooperative Party merged with several minor parties in May of 1946 to form the Cooperative Democratic Party (Kyodo Minshu-to), which joined with the People's Party (Kokumin-to) in March of 1947 to establish the People's Cooperative Party (Kokumin Kyodo-to). In the same month, the Japan Progressive Party became the Japan Democratic Party (Nihon Minshu-to) and later joined with the People's Cooperative Party to form the People's Democratic Party (Kokumin Minshu-to). Shortly before Japan regained its independence, this party disbanded in February of 1952 and quickly formed a new party, the Reform Party (Kaishin-to), which developed into the Japan Democratic Party (Nihon Minshu-to) in November of 1954.

Meanwhile, the Japan Liberal Party joined with the Democratic Club (Minshu Kurabu) in March of 1948 to form the Democratic Liberal Party (Minshu Jiyu-to). In February of 1950, this party cooperated with a pro-coalition faction in the Japan Democratic Party to establish the Liberal Party (Jiyu-to). With these changes, liberal democratic elements within Japan were finally aligned into two principal groups - the Liberal Party and the Democratic Party.

In the reformist camp, conflict between right and left wings of the Japan Socialist Party finally came to a head in October of 1951 when disagreements over the Party's stance on the Peace Treaty and Japan-U.S. Security Treaty resulted in a formal split between the two.

Immediately after the end of the War, the Higashikuni and Shidehara Cabinets were formed. These were followed by the First Yoshida Cabinet, the Katayama Cabinet, the Ashida Cabinet, the Second through the Fifth Yoshida Cabinets, and the Hatoyama Cabinet. With the exception of the cabinet headed by the Socialist Party of Japan's Tetsu Katayama, which lasted for only eight months from June of 1947 to February of 1948, cabinets were formed and the country was governed by liberal democratic parties.

Although Japan was to have been ruled "indirectly" by Occupation authorities working through the Japanese government, the instructions and intentions of the Supreme Command of the Allied Powers (SCAP) in fact amounted to "direct" rule. Successive cabinets went to great lengths to try to modify Occupation policies that were felt to be poorly suited to the actual state of affairs in the country at the time. In spite of these difficulties, however, liberal democratic cabinets were still able to rebuild a devastated country, alleviate acute food shortages, quell destabilizing labor strikes and social unrest, establish a constitution, implement reforms for agricultural land and education, institute a fixed exchange system for Japanese currency of 360 yen to the dollar, and put a viable financial system in place. When these accomplishments are added to those involving the enactment under the new Constitution of the Cabinet Law (Naikaku-ho), Diet (Japan's parliament) Law (Kokkai-ho), Courts Law (Saibansho- ho), Local Government Law (Chiho Jichi-ho), Finance Act (Zaisei-ho), Labor Relations Law (Rodo Kankei-ho), Fundamentals of Education Law (Kyoiku Kihon-ho), School Education Law (Gakko Kyoiku-ho), and Antimonopoly Law (Dokusen Kinshi-ho), it is clear that these governments can be credited for creating the basic structure of democracy seen in Japan to the present day.

After the turbulent times of the early Occupation, a firm foundation for stable government was finally established with the formation in October of 1948 of Democratic Liberal Party President Shigeru Yoshida's Second Cabinet and this party's subsequent landslide victory in the January, 1949 general election. During successive tenures, which lasted for a total of six years until December of 1954, Yoshida Cabinets are credited with a number of remarkable accomplishments, including the reconstruction of the Japanese economy. However, the most notable accomplishments were undoubtedly the conclusion of the San Francisco Peace Treaty on September 8, 1951, which restored Japan's sovereignty and brought the country back into the international community, and the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty that contributed much to the country's national security.

Against the background of the Korean War and the worsening of East-West Cold War relations, the Communist Party, left wing of the Socialist Party, and many leftist academics stressed that peace be made with all countries and that Japan should not enter into exclusive security arrangements (Zenmen kowa - Anpo soshi). However, Prime Minister Yoshida remained firm in his convictions and responded to these criticisms by advocating instead that peace with non-communist countries and the conclusion of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty be prioritized (Tasu kowa - Anpo teiketsu).

In light of history, it seems clear that these two policies contributed greatly to Japan's security, freedom, and remarkable economic prosperity and as such can rightfully be regarded as having been a truly historic achievement both of Prime Minister Yoshida and of the country's liberal democratic parties.

After the restoration of Japan's sovereignty, the Yoshida Cabinet formulated a series of "new policies for independence" (Dokuritsu Shin Seisaku) whose principal themes were (1) cooperation with free countries, (2) the strengthening of national capabilities, the stabilization of public welfare, and the gradual strengthening of defense, and (3) the fostering of economic independence through land development, the strengthening of production, and the promotion of trade. These and other measures were ambitiously implemented in an effort to build national independence, enhance social stability, and reconstruct the economy. Key legislation enacted between 1951 and 1952 included the "Anti-Subversive Activities Law" (Hakai Katsudo Boshi-ho), the "National Expenditure on Compulsory Education Law" (Gimu Kyoikuhi Kokko Futan-ho), the "Electric Power Development Promotion Law" (Dengen Kaihatsu Sokushin-ho), the "New Police Law" (Shin Keisatsu-ho), the "Defense Agency Establishment Law and Self-Defense Forces Law" (Boei-cho Secchi-ho oyobi Jieitai-ho), the "Temporary Special Measures Law Concerning the Guarantee of Political Neutrality in Education at Compulsory Education Schools" (Gimu Kyoiku Sho-Gakko no Kyoiku no Seiji-teki Churitsu no Kakuho ni kansuru Rinji Tokurei-ho), the "Law Concerning Regulation of the Ways and Means of Conducting Labor Strikes in the Electric Utilities and Coal Mining Industries" (Denki Jigyo Sekitan Kogyo ni okeru Suto Kisei-ho), the "Welfare Pension Insurance Law" (Kosei Nenkin Hoken-ho), the "School Lunch Law" (Gakko Kyushoku-ho), and the "Ammonium Sulfate Supply and Demand Stabilization Law" (Ryuan Jukyu Antei-ho).

Unfortunately, after the conclusion of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and the restoration of Japan's sovereignty in April of 1952, public support for the long-lived Yoshida administration began to wane. As Japanese politics once again entered a period of instability, momentum quickly began to build behind the formation of a "conservative alliance" designed to bring about a change in administration. In response to this, Yoshida submitted a formal request in November of 1954 to the leaders of the Liberal Party asking that the Party make a decision regarding the fate of his administration.
Immediately following the formation of the Japanese Democratic Party (Nihon Minshu-to) from a coalition between the Reform Party and the Japan Liberal party, which had earlier splintered from the Liberal Party, the entire Yoshida Cabinet resigned on December 7.

In the wake of these developments, Japanese Democratic Party President Ichiro Hatoyama was appointed Prime Minister on December 10 and formed the First Hatoyama Cabinet.

The Hatoyama Cabinet campaigned in the run-up to the general election in January of 1955 on a policy platform promising to work to (1) resolve problems concerning housing, (2) improve support for small and medium-sized businesses, (3) strengthen measures to combat unemployment, (4) reform the tax system, and (5) promote exports. However, as the election gave 185 seats to the Democratic Party, 112 to the Liberal Party, 89 to the Socialist Party's left faction, 67 to its right faction, and the remaining 14 to other parties, the political landscape became fractured into several small parties.

As politics remained in a state of flux even after the formation of the Second Hatoyama Cabinet, pressures intensified for the creation of a coalition between the Democratic and Liberal Parties that could perhaps bring stability. At long last, the 10-year "Preparation" period of Japan's postwar democratic development came to a close and the country began to move forward into a new era of "Prosperity."

The text ends here
Local navigation

Back to Top

menu