Anarchism and The High Treason Incident
Ōsugi still held military aspirations as a matter of practicality, since he still had no other career ambitions. However, in 1906 he was arrested during a demonstration-turned-riot against increasing trolly fares, after which a military career became impossible. While in prison he took the time to fully study socialism and its various tenets, and completed his transition to a socialist. His interest in science would also lay the groundwork for his eventual shift to anarchism.
While in prison he taught himself various languages, including Italian, Esperanto, Russian, English, French, and German.
His initial prison sentences were due to separate instances of activist-related activity. The first was for the aforementioned trolly fare protest riot. Later he was arrested for violating press laws in connection with two articles he published in late 1906 and early 1907. Still later he served two more separate terms in 1908 for violating the Peace Police Law on two separate occasions, the Rooftop Incident (Yane-jō jiken) and the Red Flag Incident (Akahata jiken) in early and late 1908, respectively.
While in prison, Kōtoku, now an avowed anarchist, encouraged him to research the work of Bakunin and Kropotkin. Ōsugi was particularly receptive to Kropotkin's scientific approach to anarchy, and he would later translate Kropotkin's autobiography in 1920.
When he was arrested in 1908 as part of the Red Flag Incident, he was handed the heaviest prison term he would receive in his life. However, the prison terms saved him and others convicted at the time from being associated with the High Treason Incident (Taigyaku Jiken) of 1910. At the trials, 12 anarchists, including Kōtoku Shūsui and one of the few anarchists found not guilty during the Red Flag trials, were found guilty of conspiracy to assassinate the Emperor and were sentenced to death.
Ōsugi later encountered the defendants in prison, but was too afraid to speak to them too loudly. Kōtoku was unable to hear him, as he was nearly deaf. Ōsugi also encountered their executioner, who retired after their execution.
After this experience he never challenged the state with open calls for violent revolution, and his future essays instead focused on individualism and criticisms of capitalism. He would not be arrested again until 1919, for assaulting a police officer, for which he was sentenced to a three-month term. He was also briefly held in detention in France in 1922 before being deported to Japan.
Famous quotes containing the words incident, treason, anarchism and/or high:
“It is of the highest importance in the art of detection to be able to recognise out of a number of facts which are incidental and which are vital.... I would call your attention to the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.
The dog did nothing in the night-time.
That was the curious incident.”
—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (18591930)
“All men should have a drop of treason in their veins, if nations are not to go soft like so many sleepy pears.”
—Rebecca West (18921983)
“Anarchism is the only philosophy which brings to man the consciousness of himself; which maintains that God, the State, and society are non-existent, that their promises are null and void, since they can be fulfilled only through mans subordination. Anarchism is therefore the teacher of the unity of life; not merely in nature, but in man.”
—Emma Goldman (18691940)
“Brutes are deprived of the high advantages which we have; but they have some which we have not. They have not our hopes, but they are without our fears; they are subject like us to death, but without knowing it; even most of them are more attentive than we to self-preservation, and do not make so bad a use of their passions.”
—Charles Louis de Secondat Montesquieu (16891755)