The words Dawn of a New Era seem to be ones that inspire hope, confidence, or feelings of renewal. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Take the end of the Taisho Era in Japan.This is going to take some explanation.
See, Japan counts years on two parallel calendars, one the western we all know, the one that says it’s 2017 (years since the birth of Christ) and the traditional Japanese year system, which counts it by the year of the reigning emperor. This year is Heisei 29, the 29th year of the reign of Heisei (Heisei is the name that will be the current emperor’s posthumous name), his name while alive is Akihito, although most of the time he’s referred to as “heika Tenno” meaning “his majesty the Emperor”. But I’ll just call him Akihito, because I’m a communist and not at all fond of monarchy.
The era which saw Japan open up to the west (at the point of a gun) was the Meiji era. The era after that was called Taisho. Meiji was long, and saw Japan change from feudal backwater to a modern country that could beat the Russian Empire. Taisho was short. But during the short era, Japan saw a blossoming of intellectualism the likes of which it hadn’t seen in centuries. For one, the Communist Party of Japan was born. The liberal opening of the old autocratic system heralded a new age. But that bright new age soon ended and a new era began. The age of Showa. Showa was better known in the west as Hirohito, and I don’t think I need to tell you what happened next. (lots and lots of war, two atomic bombs and occupation by the US for a long time)
It was just announced in the news that the current emperor, Akihito may step down from his mighty chair o’ Japan, and give power to his son, Prince whatsisface starting in January of 2019, which will literally dawn a new era in Japan. But I am talking about eras for another reason. We sit on the precipice.
At the end of the 1920s, things looked great. Then the stock market crashed, Hitler rose to power and the next 15 years were pretty shit. But now we see a world in flux again. Late capitalism is producing clowns, shadows of fascism and liberals unable to make sense of the world. Automation is taking jobs faster than society can deal with and poverty is rising in what was the unassailable “first world”. The US president elect, a clown of a man, has handed power directly to the bourgeoisie, the old racist reactionary right and worse. The world, to me, seems sitting, shivering with tense anticipation for the horrors that could be unleashed on the world this year alone with madmen in office and enough weapons to kill a solar system of life.
We sit here at the dawn of a new era. I see the old system crumbling. But this can take two possible roads. The world can either tear itself apart and sit in the ashes, or it can be a creative destruction. It can be a progressive destruction. I implore the left to not be shy, don’t play politics and identity nonsense. Don’t make deals with the devil to get a crumb when you can take the whole damn loaf. The capitalist imperialist system is shuddering and creaking. It’s contradictions are killing it in exactly the way Marx said it would. A new era is dawning. But the left has to unite, and fight against racism, xenophobia and against fear. Back to science, back to materialism, back to preaching hope and working class unity.
Thank you for reading, and don’t worry! I promise the podcast is coming out this week!