Anarchist theory and practice have global aims of liberation. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, anarchism furnished a comprehensive critique and analysis of state rule, capitalism and imperialism. As recent research has demonstrated, in many European and extra-European countries anarchist thought and practice was a modern and appealing intervention. Especially in anti-colonial struggles anarchism was a significant reference for various libertarian movements, who maintained networks across national and imperial borders. Yet, how does anarchism play out in an imperial formation, in which anarchists are in a double bind situation of being subjugated to an imperial state and discriminated against by Western hegemony, but simultaneously positioned themselves within a non-white imperial center?
This paper analyzes anarchist communalist thought and practice in 1920s and 1930s imperial Japan. It demonstrates anarchists’ engagement in revolutionary theory and practice challenging the imperial state. Moreover, it discusses how Japanese anarchists positioned themselves in a global struggle for liberation. They developed revolutionary models with global visions and universalist claims, which also challenged Western epistemology as the only point of reference to give authority to any kind of progressive, rational thinking. Thus the tension between West and non-West that emerged in Japanese anarchists’ critical reading of Western theory, as well as Japanese anarchists strategies and their discussion of non-Western anarchist and other radical communalist concepts are at the center of this paper.