‘Shozo Tanaka’ by Sen Katayama from International Socialist Review. Vol. 14 No. 7. January, 1914.

‘Shozo Tanaka’ by Sen Katayama from International Socialist Review. Vol. 14 No. 7. January, 1914.

On October fourth died Shozo Tanaka, a farmer seventy years of age. He was for many years a member of the Diet, having been returned many times by his friends. Long ago he began to espouse the cause of the farmers along the river Watarase, whose waters had poisoned the irrigated districts through the pollution of the copper mines. Over 300,000 people suffered through this deadly copper pollution. Rice and all other crops refused to grow in the poisoned soil. Fertile farms became waste land and famine spread along the river banks. Tanaka fought wisely and bravely to have the mine owners prevented from spreading their poison over the rice fields. Again and again for many years he spoke with the tongue of truth and eloquence of the devastation the copper mines was bringing, but growing discouraged after thirteen years of unsuccessful effort, he resigned his position in the Diet to devote his remaining years to active work among the farmers. A fertile village called Ynakumura had been confiscated by the government without the inhabitants being at all consulted in the matter. The government decided to use it as a reservoir into which flood waters were to be turned.

This meant ruin to the farmers. Shozo threw all his strength into this fight for the retention of the land for the people who had tilled it. But against the government, even he could not prevail. The villagers were driven off in the most brutal fashion.

But never did he give up. Always was he to be found fighting the cause of the farmers, with the farmers. In his work of education and agitation he has taught them many things.

When the grand old man passed away thousands upon thousands of workingmen and women flocked to pay their last tribute to one whose entire life had been spent in trying to help the conditions of his own people.

In heart Shozo was a true Socialist. He did not understand our theories; he had never studied them. Besides, he was not a scholar. From the ranks, he rose to an assured seat in the Imperial Diet. But position and comfort had no attractions for him when he saw that he could not be of service to those he loved.

And so he left the Diet and his comfortable position and returned to the ranks of the farmers, from whence he had come. He had labored with those who rule and found no help in their hands. The message of his later years was that the farmers must protect themselves. His work will bear good fruit among them as the years pass.

The International Socialist Review (ISR) was published monthly in Chicago from 1900 until 1918 by Charles H. Kerr and critically loyal to the Socialist Party of America. It is one of the essential publications in U.S. left history. During the editorship of A.M. Simons it was largely theoretical and moderate. In 1908, Charles H. Kerr took over as editor with strong influence from Mary E Marcy. The magazine became the foremost proponent of the SP’s left wing growing to tens of thousands of subscribers. It remained revolutionary in outlook and anti-militarist during World War One. It liberally used photographs and images, with news, theory, arts and organizing in its pages. It articles, reports and essays are an invaluable record of the U.S. class struggle and the development of Marxism in the decades before the Soviet experience. It was closed down in government repression in 1918.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/isr/v14n07-jan-1914-ISR-riaz-ocr.pdf

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