Perils - white and yellow

The Western Socialist
March 1938

Over in Europe, where war clouds appear to be gathering over every land, one of the difficulties of estimating the time of the probable hostilities lies in the altered values attached to the statements and demands of the various contentious powers. In former times the traditional and dignified tone of the government-inspired organs and the use by diplomats of a special language designed expressly for the purpose of concealing thoughts and motives by the method of the retort courteous, presented an almost insuperable barrier to the understanding of the average citizen; but today even a robust and untutored longshoreman can appreciate and mayhap envy the versatility and richness of the vocabulary emanating from these former impeccables. Time also was, within memory, when a reference to Great Britain as Perfidious Albion was regarded as daring and almost the ultimate in abuse, but this epithet would now be received with the same amused tolerance as the proverbial slap on the wrist. Liars, robbers, terrorists, etc., have become commonplace terms in broadcasts under Mussolini’s control, while Hitler’s contributions, though less vituperative, hold greater menace.

One happy, though paradoxical feature of these exchanges is that all the parties concerned are filled with a consuming desire for peace, and in order to enforce it, if necessary, are cheerfully sacrificing the standard of living of their working class in exchange for unlimited armaments to further that laudable aim.

Strange to say it is in the field of action that the old capitalist obscurity has reappeared and the former blunt broadsides of the apostles of “blood and iron” have undergone a complete transformation. Although numberless thousands have been or are being killed, officially there are no wars. This mystery deepens when Italy rejoices in the victories of her army in Spain, the while Mussolini reiterates his “firm resolve to continue and maintain the principle of non-intervention”. Hitler, of course, has now “no interest in Spain”, so has massed an army on the Austrian frontier to assure “permanent friendship” and “a milestone towards peace”. He also furthers these aims by continued assistance to the Spanish insurgents.

On the other side of the world the Japanese government is using every available weapon to avoid war with China prompted, as always, by “a spirit of non-menace and non-aggression”; and it is in the current Sino-Japanese manifestations of mutual love and respect that here on the Pacific Coast (“the gateway to the Orient”) the greatest interest and concern is concentrated, the bickerings and squabbles of effete old Europe being regarded as a natural phenomenon and no concern of ours.

Through the aggressive efforts of the muddled advocates of peace, there is developing in Vancouver a hatred against the Japanese that may eventually arouse the desire for action or war. At the start this movement was designed to assist China through the agency of the boycott and embargo, the movement being led by the Communist Party’s “League for Peace and Democracy”, with the more or less official support of the C.C.F. But advantage was taken by many interested parties of using the long-smoldering economic antagonisms against the local Japanese, so that the latter now have become the chief target, and indications are that if there is no return to sanity the 30,000 Japanese in B.C., half of whom were born in Canada (though lacking the franchise) are in danger of losing their means of livelihood and being relegated to obscurity in the equivalent of the Jewish ghetto.

This threat to the local Japanese has arisen through their success in adapting themselves to the competitive conditions of western capitalism, and their cardinal sin, in the eyes of the petty bourgeoisie (who lead the movement against them), lies in the number of stores they were operating profitably. We say were for the once equally obnoxious Chinese storekeeper (he having also joined the boycott) is now enjoying the equivalent of a boom at the expense of the Japanese.

Needless to say, it has been comparatively easy to enlist large numbers of workers to the support of this activity, propaganda of the following variety having a fascinating appeal to the average worker. This excerpt is taken from a pamphlet entitle, Japan, the Octopus of the East, and its menace to Canada:

“The Chinese never attempt to compete with Canadian youths for hotel work, such as operating elevators, operating gas stations or driving taxis, but in these and in a score of other ways the Japs are ever on the lookout for opportunities to displace the Canadian. As a result Vancouver has become an absolute paradise for these persistent, aggressive and unscrupulous Japs, who are a serious menace to the rising generation of young Canadians.”

Patriotic employers have also become impressed by the imminence of this yellow peril, and many have declared their intention of dispensing with the services of the suspect Nipponese; but it is unlikely that thus action will fulfill any of the expectations of the rising generation of young Canadians, as hitherto unexpected merits are being discovered almost daily among the unemployed Chinese.

The concern of our masters in the oriental strife and in the position of the Japanese in B.C. is based on a more or less clear recognition of their own interests. The concern of the workers is the product of their illusions. Still obsessed and occupied with the hunt for the elusive job, the average worker is ready and eager to support any movement or scheme that seems to promise him one, and, although the ousting of the whole Japanese colony from the labor market would only give him about the same ratio of chances for a job as a ticket on a lottery, that is good enough for him, for he reads and hears than in 20 years the Japanese, because of their well known fecundity, will possess every job in the province. So he feels he is looking ahead.

We expect, of course, that disillusionment with this form of activity will presently set in, to be replaced by enthusiastic activity of an equally unproductive direction. But in the meantime the workers’ general lack of social understanding is making them the means of adding to the uncertainties and miseries of a section of their own class. In this connection it might be said that the Japanese rulers are using the theory of overpopulation and the need for standing room as a means of covering up the real reasons for the invasion of China. All our troubles and wars are caused by the density of populations. Needless to say we endorse this theory, and it is towards replacing this density with clarity that all the energy and efforts of the S.P. of C. have been and are being directed.