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Images of Japanese Labor and Social Movement in Pre-1945 Japan (2): Election Campaign Posters

    This exhibition shows about 180 posters from the pre-1945 collection of election campaign posters (about 500 posters) owned by the Ohara Institute.


Election Campaign Posters for the 1928 General Election

    Posters of the First Universal Male Suffrage Election for the House of Representatives
The first general election under the Universal Male Suffrage Law of 1925 was held in February 1928. The Home Ministry produced a poster appealing to the public not to abstain from voting. Its text reads “Universal Male Suffrage Everyone, Go to the Polls! If you vote, the future will be bright.”
    Proletarian parties put up 90 candidates. These parties won 8 seats out of 466 seats in the House of Representatives. The 8 successful candidates were prominent leaders of labor and social movements. The number of qualified voters (males above 25 years old) was 12.53 million, and the voting turnout rate was 80.3%.
    The election was not necessarily conducted in a fair way. For example, Oyama Ikuo, the chair of Rodo Nominto (the Labor-Farmer Party) ran for a seat of the Kagawa Prefecture District but was defeated due to the government’s heavy interference into the election process. Hasegawa Nyozekan (a journalist), who supported Oyama’s election campaign, cynically remarked, “If Oyama had won the election despite the heavy government interference, a stone garden lantern standing silently at the Kotohira Shrine would also have won it.”
    Noda Ritsuta, the Rodo Nominto (Labor-Farmer Party) candidate from the first district of Osaka Prefecture, was also defeated. His poster was unique in the sense that his name was painted in red on newspaper. This poster took advantage of the fact that the size of posters was limited to that of newspaper. Another candidate, such as Ohashi Harufusa (candidate of the Rodo Nominto from the fourth district of Osaka Prefecture), used a similar poster for his campaign.


Election Campaign Posters of Proletarian Parties

    With the enactment of the Universal Male Suffrage Law, social and labor movements established proletarian parties in order to send their representatives to the National Diet.
The Rodo Nominto (Labor-Farmer Party)
    The Rodo Nominto was established in March 1926. The party originally excluded leftists. However, the party made a left-turn because the Nichino (Japan Farmers’ Union), one of the party’s supporting organizations, took an open door policy toward leftists under the pressure from the Nichino’s radical youth section. The left-turn brought about the withdrawal from the party of five rightist supporting organizations, which in turn formed the Shakai Minshuto (Social People’s Party) in December 1926. The Rodo Nominto thereafter became a de facto legal arm of the Japan Communist party. In the first general election under the universal male suffrage, two candidates from the party, Yamamoto Senji and Mizutani Chotaro, were elected. The party was banned in the 3.15 Incident in 1928, in which the government took severe repressive measures against the Communist Party and organizations affiliated with it.
The Nihon Ronoto (Japan Labor-Farmer Party)
    The Nihon Ronoto (Japan Labor-Farmer Party) was formed in November 1926 by centrist groups that had seceded from the Rodo Nominto. Its leaders included such intellectuals as former members of the Shinjinkai (New Man Society) (e.g., Aso Hisashi) and regular contributors to the centrist journal Shakai Shiso (Social Thought). Leaders of labor and farmer movements, such as Kato Kanju and Asanuma Inejiro, also joined the leadership. In the first general election, one of its candidates, Kawakami Jotaro, was elected.
    In December 1928, the Nihon Ronoto merged with the Nihon Nominto (Japan Farmers’ Party), the Musan Taishuto (Proletarian Masses’ Party) and other parties and formed the Nihon Taishuto (Japan Masses’ Party).
  The Nihon Taishuto (Japan Masses’ Party) was succeeded by The Zenkoku Taishuto (National Masses Party) in July 1930, which in turn was succeeded by The Zenkoku Rono Taishuto (National Labor-Farmer Masses Party) in July 1931.
The Shakai Minshuto (Social People’s Party)
    The rightist supporting groups of the Rodo Nominto, such as the Nihon Rodo Sodomei (Japan General Federation of Labor), the Nihon Kangyo Rodo Sodomei (Japan General Federation of Labor in Government Enterprises), and the Japan Seamen’s Union, withdrew from the party and formed the Shakai Minshuto in December 1926. The party took a reformist policy and engaged in a movement for the legislation of the Labor Union Law. The party suffered from splits due to the withdrawals of its leftist faction in 1929 and its rightist faction in 1932. After the withdrawal of the rightist faction, the party merged with the Zenkoku Rono Taishuto (National Labor-Farmer Masses Party) to form the Shakai Taishuto (Social Masses’ Party) in July 1932 based on the platform of the “three anti-ism” (i.e., anti-capitalism, anti-communism, and anti-fascism).


Election Campaign Posters of Bourgeois Parties

 The Rikken Minseito (Constitutional Democratic Party)
 The Rikken Seiyukai (Constitutional Political Fraternal Association)


Election Campaign Posters of Other Parties

 The Kyushu Minkento (Kyushu People’s Constitutional Party)
 Other Parties/Independent Candidates

    The explanations of the first universal male suffrage election in 1928 and proletarian parties are on based on UMEDA Toshihide, 2001, Poster no shakaishi, (Social History of Propaganda Posters) Tokyo: Hituzi Shobo Publishing Co. and the Ohara Institute for Social Research ed., 1995. Shakai Rodoundo Dainenpyo, (Chronicles of Social and Labor Movements) Tokyo: Rodojunposha. (translation: SUZUKI Akira)
Posters’ texts were translated by Ruth S. McCreery.

Updated date:2021.06.24