Chushichi Tsuzuki (1926-2020)

Chushichi Tsuzuki’s membership of the Society for the Study of Labour History was first recorded in the Bulletin of Spring 1962. He remained a Society member for many years – almost certainly well beyond 2006, when he and I attended our South Bank University conference marking the centenary of the Parliamentary Labour Party’s formation.

Chushichi first left Japan in July 1952 as a Fulbright scholar at Princeton before moving to Wisconsin-Madison University. He met Henry Pelling, who was there from Queen’s College Oxford during 1953-4, and took his advice to come to England. He attended the Oxford Summer School for 1954 and stayed on at Ruskin College for the year to 1955, working for a DPhil under the supervision of Pelling, now back at Queen’s. A scholarship facilitated a move to St Antony’s, where he stayed until February 1959, leaving for Japan after the death of G.D.H. Cole. Cole had had taken on supervision because of Pelling again being in America. The Oxford DPhil of 1959 was the basis of Chu’s first biographical study, H.M Hyndman and British Socialism, 1961. Chu’s high regard for Henry continued thereafter, being further marked by ‘Anglo-Marxism and Working Class Education’ in Jay Winter’s 1983 festschrift for Pelling. Hyndman was followed by The Life of Eleanor Marx, 1855-1898, 1967; Edward Carpenter (1884-1929), campaigner for sexual equality and socialist writer, 1980; and Tom Mann, 1856-1941. The Challenges of Labour, 1991. These four studies, written in impeccable English, attracted the 82nd Imperial and Japan Academy Prizes of June 1992.

While on the staff at Hitotsubashi University from November 1959 until his final move to the International University of Japan, Chu maintained his strong British connection. At Oxford St Anthony’s, he was a research fellow between 1963-65 and became its first Nissan Fellow from 1981 onwards. When Pelling left Queen’s and returned to his original St John’s College, Cambridge, Chu was invited as Overseas Fellow for 1976-77. But he was also well connected with Sheffield. He came to the university Centre for Japanese Studies as a visiting professor during 1969-70, which is when we originally met Chu and Haruko with Royden and Pauline Harrison. He was again at Sheffield University during 1986 to 1987 as the Jerwood Fellow, and consequently arranged my own 1987-88 Jerwood Fellowship at Hitotsubashi.

Chu was working on Tom Mann during the late 80’s. It was originally conceived as a triple biography of the men of 1889 London Dock Strike, John Burns, Tom Mann, and Ben Tillett. A reader of the proposal advised against this and the title was confined to Mann. But Burns and Tillett are not absent; and Chu always thought of it as dealing with aspects of the three, rather than Mann alone. Arthur Stockwin of St Anthony’s perceptively draws attention to a passage from the book as ‘savouring the flavour of his writing’, but it goes well beyond that. To say that:
‘Working-class culture is not simply materialist ….. The values and battle-cries brought out in the course of their struggles – solidarity, comradeship, manhood, or the recognition of each worker’s dignity as a man, equal citizenship for all the working men – have relevance beyond the limits of one social class of one nation’
is to reveal Chu’s own values, commitment and character. Solidarity and comradeship beyond the limits of class or nation are what characterised the man.

Tsuzuki’s historical academic work on Japan should be noted as well as his work on British labour history. A particularly important contribution was his article on the ‘The Idea of Opposition in Japanese Culture’ published in the Hitotsubashi Journal of Social Studies, April 1988, 20, 1. The important section directly relating to Chu’s views deals with ‘The Post-war Opposition: The 2.1 (1947) General Strike Movement and After’. In Chu’s view this episode deserved special attention, because a pacific and democratic Japan was to be created through reforms introduced by the Occupation Authorities: the military police state crumbled and criticism of the emperor system was permitted; five major reforms included the emancipation of women, the right of combination for the workers for the first time in the country, and the liberalisation of education. The American impact on the university system brought socialists and others who had formerly been excluded, back in as teachers; and explained why many Japanese academics took the path from the Centre for Japanese Studies in our Arts Tower to our adult education department in Wilkinson Street to see me as an editor of the Society’s Bulletin. The ‘happy state’ of liberalisation, when Communists and Socialists saw the Occupation forces as an ally in their liberation, was not to last however, especially following the onset of the February 1947 general strike. The formative impact of the American occupation period on Chu became apparent when we spent a weekend at his country house at Karuizawa: he played various American big band records one evening and remarked with emotion, ‘there John, is democracy!’. Articles related to that on ‘opposition’ – a term, incidentally, that apparently doesn’t have its synonym in Japanese – are those of Tsuzuki on anarchism: ‘Kotoku, Osugi and Japanese Anarchism’, Hitotsubashi Journal of Social Studies, March 1966, 3,1; and ‘Anarchism in Japan’, Government and Opposition, Autumn 1970, 5, 4.

Chu worked with Graham Healey of Sheffield in a major project. translation into English of papers from the Iwakura Embassy of 1871-73 and The Pursuit of Power in Japan, 1825-1995, was published in 2000. This last was marked, as one reviewer noted, by ‘fluent prose’ not to be suspected in an author whose first language was not English, and an ‘underlying anti-establishment tone’ more clearly evident in the concluding remarks. Chu proposed in June 1981, while at Hitotsubashi, the formation of a project which was discussed during April 1987 in intervals between meetings at the SSLH Conference in Sheffield. The conference was being held on the 250th anniversary of Thomas Paine’s birth. Chu and I met with Royden to draw up a prospectus, for what we called The International Socialist Exchange (Tom Paine Group). The prospectus didn’t imagine that Paine could be described as a Socialist, but he was unquestionably an Internationalist, a Humanist, and a revolutionary Democrat, without which, we insisted, Socialism was a deceit. We noted that everywhere socialism was in retreat, that socialists had gone to sleep or become disillusioned with the outcomes of their particular traditions. What we needed was a new international of creative thinkers, not an international involving tests, preconceived ideas or an administrative machine aimed at securing ‘Power’, but one that would create a new climate of opinion discrediting current capitalist and imperial shibboleths.

The project was stillborn, but there can be little doubt that if Chu were still with us he would think his proposal even more required today! Those of us who knew him well will cherish his work and personality, but he could have no more fitting memorial than if someone found a way of creating the ISE [Tom Paine Group] of creative thinkers!

John Halstead