The so-called "Dangerous Thoughts" bill was being debated and rewritten in the House of Peers as Sanger sailed toward Yokohama. The bill had been widely criticized in the Japanese press for its vague language and potential application to any number of ideas and movements that the government considered dangerous, including Communism and Bolshevism, which the government, long an enemy of Russia and the victor in the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War, particularly feared. Though birth control was not specifically addressed in the bill, the fact that many birth control advocates were socialists and labor activists increased the likelihood that birth control would become a target of the legislation. Though the bill was approved by the House of Peers on March 14, it was never introduced into the Lower House because of criticism within the Diet, and it failed to become law.
DANGEROUS THOUGHTS UNDER CONTROL
On February 18, the Seiyukai[A] introduced into the House of Peers a Government Bill having for its purpose the effective control of the ideas of Bolshevism and Socialism which are supposed to be undermining the morale of the nation. The Bill is called the "Kageki Shisei Torishimari Hoan"--"Bill for the Control of Extreme Thoughts" and was introduced into the House of Peers with the following preamble:--
Recently the propaganda of Bolshevism has grown stronger and stronger in Japan; as it has in foreign countries, and as the present laws for the control of such teachings are not severe enough to control this extreme movement, and new legal control must be given the authorities.
This preamble has not been given in exact translation, but its meaning is clear. There is an attempt on the part of the introducers of the bill to distort, for it is a well known fact to all observers of world events that Bolshevism is not strengthening its hold on the minds of men abroad. On the contrary it is losing its power abroad. What growth communism may be making in Japan, or whether the absurdities of the doctrine are being recognized, is not so plain on the surface.
The bill, however, is extraordinary in its scope and goes far beyond any necessity, whatever may be the condition here.
What an influential Japanese magazine has to say on the subject is here quoted, the following being an editorial from the Toyo Keizai Shimpo of February 25:
"If one looks at the contents of the bill," begins the Toyo Keizai, "one finds that it reads as follows:
"Article I--Those who spread or have the intention of spreading, propaganda of Bolshevism and Communism, or the propaganda of other movements having the same ends in view, and thereby disturb the institutions of the Japanese Nation, may be punished by 7 years or less imprisonment at hard labour, or by simple confinement, for a like period. Those who canvass for followers, and those who are persuaded to become followers of such movements shall be liable to the same punishments.
"Article II--Those who organize associations, or promote public meetings, or otherwise institute movements having for their purpose the spread of anarchism or communism in actual governmental institutions shall be liable to 10 years or less imprisonment at hard labour, or by simple confinement for a like period.
"Article III--Those who spread propaganda, or intend to spread propaganda, having for its purpose illegal methods of action, who organize mobs, or attempt to intimidate or influence others by such methods, in order that the fundamental institutions of society may be overthrown, shall be liable to 5 years, or less, imprisonment at hard labour, or by simple confinement for a like period.
"Article IV--Those who give assistance to others, or in other ways make convenient the actions of others who are committing the crimes mentioned in Articles II and III, and all those who receive assistance or money, with a clear knowledge of the reason for which they are receiving it, to commit the crimes mentioned in Article II shall be punished as provided in that article: and those who receive assistance or money, with a clear knowledge of the reason for which they are receiving it, to commit the crimes mentioned in Article III shall by punished as provided in that article.
"Article V--Those who violate article IV and confess their crime before it becomes known to the authorities, may be treated with leniency or wholly pardoned.
"Article VI--The application of this law shall extend to those persons even who commit these crimes outside the jurisdiction of the Japanese Empire."
"The avowed purpose of this Bill is to provide methods for the effective control of propaganda for Bolshevism, anarchism, and communism, which disturb Japanese institutions. Article III of the Bill is directed against those who threaten the fundamental principles of society, by organizing mobs, threatening, or using illegal methods to "disturb the institutions of the Japanese nation". These are extremely abstract statements, and it would appear that the authorities may be lenient or strict in their interpretation of the meaning of these articles, as it shall seem expedient and fit to them. From the wording of the Bill it is forced in upon the people that the meaning of the proposed legislation is that any movement which is displeasing to the authorities will be considered Bolshevism, communism or anarchism. Even reformers of the present inequalities of the social organization would be liable to severe punishment under the provisions of this Bill. Even idle chatterers about political matters using the mere words "Bolshevism", "communism" or anarchism" would come under the suspicion of the omnipresent police spy and probably be subjected to intense annoyance before the careless phrases were satisfactorily explained to the official mind.
"The present iniquitious laws gagging the press, and the Preservation of the Peace law have given rise to many evils. But if this Bill to Control Extreme Thoughts becomes law, without any objection or clarification from the members of the complaisant Diet[B], the whole world outside Japan will simply laugh at this country and its attempts to be considered a constitutional monarchy. The world will call Japan bigoted. Such an idea in the minds of the world will unfavorably affect the Japanese people in their relations abroad.
"The Japanese people know little, if anything, of communism or anarchism, and it is quite surprising to them to be told dogmatically that they are evils of the worst, most condemnable sort. Even if these principles are not all good, certainly it is impossible to say that the principles opposed to them, bureaucracy and capitalism, are perfect principles of political life. It is difficult to understand what all the fuss is actually about. Why are these principles evil and the other principles not evil? Why is it not possible to let them live freely as a counter-irritant to the capitalism and bureaucracy of the world today?
"For a long time past Bureaucracy and Capitalism have been yelling at the top of their voices that these principles opposed to them are all wrong. Their viewpoint is deeply impressed in the thoughts of all people. But such thought is merely superstition, and to maintain such a superstition by incorporating it in the laws of a nation is to act beneath the national dignity. At one time, when Bolshevism was first gaining power in Russia, there was much uneasiness felt all over the world but now that Bolshevism is dying of its own passion it is surely not necessary in a country like Japan to pass such a drastic abstract law to control the growth of its dying principles. Such laws are extremely dangerous to the public interest, and foreign governments are aware of the fact.
"The abstractions of the law will be interpreted concretely by the authorities, who, themselves entertain thoughts extremely dangerous to the best interests of the mental growth of the nation. There is a splendid example of the truth of this before us today, in the extraordinary attitude of the authorities assumed in regard to the coming visit of the American advocate of birth control, Mrs. Margaret Sanger. The minute the Government heard of Birth Control, it at once adopted the attitude that it is a very dangerous thing, without any consideration of its pros and cons. Now there are arguments both for and against it, which may be given without any consideration being necessary as to whether it be good or bad. But this had no interest to the authorities. They simply put their fists down on it at once and called it bad, and the Japanese consul in San Francisco was instructed to refuse his visa to her passport. So the first article of this Bill now in the Diet ought to be re-written, to include such evil ideas as those for which Mrs. Sanger stands sponsor.
"What is contained in the Extreme Thought movement that is not known to the Public? Are the police to be the only interpreters of what Extreme Thoughts are? Naturally we may expect that anything not pleasing to the authorities will at once be stamped as 'anarchism', and the people will be placed in a position under this law where they will never be able to know which of their principles are proper and which subversive of law.
"The very foundation of freedom of thought is threatened by this Bill. It must be rejected by the Diet."
A. The Rikken Seiyukai ("Friends of Constitutional Government Party"), the ruling political party in Japan, was closely linked with business and financial concerns ("Rikken Seiyukai," Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan Online
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B. The legislative branch of the Japanese government, the Imperial Diet, was established by the Meiji constitution in 1890, consisted of a House of Representatives and the House of Peers.
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