Introducing KAGAWA By Helen Topping
You have read this sketch of Kagawa’s life and service to
the Cooperative Movement Now let Kagawa speak for himself in
MEDITATIONS on the CROSS by KAGAWA
(Translated by Helen F. Topping and Marion C Draper.)
A book which lays bare the true Kagawa―his passionate religious devotion, his belief in social solidarity, his search for a cooperative way of life, his program for world brotherhood.(All royalties from the sale of this book go to the support of the work of Kagawa in Japan.)
WILLET, CLARK ＆ CO
440 S. Dearborn St., Chicago
200 Fifth Avenue, New York
By Helen Topping
Kagawa was an orphan at four. His father and his mother both were dead, and the father’s legal wife was bringing him up, and hating him. Over and over again, while she cared for him, she would say, “You are the son of my enemy.” The grandmother for a while beat him every day, and the other children took their cue from the grownups. When a little girl in the neighborhood got hurt and nobody knew how or why it had happened, it was blamed on him as a matter of course. He didn’t eat for two whole days, and then gathered up his pennies and took them to the parents of the little girl in an effort to make amends for a thing he had never done. He said he did not want to live there any more.
His home was in the open country. His guardians showed mercy and let him go into the near-by small city to live in the home of his uncle, where his older brother had preceded him. Here he continued attending school, and at eleven was sent also to a Buddhist temple. The Buddhist priests taught him Confucian precepts. “Be a saint. Be a gentleman,” they said. Kagawa wanted to be a saint and a gentleman with all the fervor of his childish heart, but he was afraid he never could attain to that status, not only because they had given him that impression, but also because there was no saint and no gentleman anywhere near for him to imitate―not among the Buddhist priests and certainly not among the members of his own household.
At fourteen he was thinking, way beyond his years, about the tragic state of the whole world as he had found it, longing to do something about it, yet fearful he never could. He feared he was caught in a vicious circle that he could not break. Then a missionary invited him into an English Bible class.
Kagawa asked his oldest brother’s permission for his brother was his legal guardian. The brother said: “Christianity is a traitor’s religion. You are never allowed to become a Christian in this country. But English is necessary for an educated man, so you may join the class, especially since it’s an unusual opportunity to learn to speak it with the foreigner’s own pronunciation.”
Kagawa joined the class. Then the character of Christ, of whom he had never heard before, began to unfold before him as the saint and the gentleman he had been looking for. Just at that time his brother died. He looked back on his brother’s life with the more profound sadness because it had been characterized by nothing except the wrong sort of behavior. He contrasted this with the life of Christ, and began to do his own thinking.
The missionary went off on a summer vacation, and gave the boys a number of Bible verses to memorize. I doubt if any of the others in the class learned them, because it is so difficult to memorize in a language entirely different from one’s own, but Kagawa was desperately in earnest, and he got those verses.
He tells us what they were―Luke 12:27-31. Memorizing does something to you, and Kagawa says: “I discovered my Father in heaven, and in me.” He began to turn all his terrific anxiety about the state of the world, and his own possible future relationship to it, into prayer.
For seven months he prayed to be made like Christ. In Japan we don’t have tables and chairs and bedsteads. You take off your shoes when you go into the house, and sit on the floor, eat on the floor, and sleep on the floor. All that Kagawa had when he started to go to bed at night was a couple of thick comforters―half way between comforter and mattress. He would pull them out of the cupboard and spread one below and one above and wriggle himself in between, and there for seven months, in that very anti-Christian household, he was praying to be made like Christ.
After seven months came the turn of the year, the first of January, when every Japanese child becomes a year older. Kagawa was now fifteen. He went back to the mission to borrow another book. He was reading Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” in a foreign language. The missionary stopped him, asking, “Kagawa, don’t you believe in God by this time?”
“Yes,” he said.
“And how about prayer ? Do you pray ?”
Kagawa was just the ordinary fifteen-year-old boy. He got red in the face and could not answer, because he thought it was probably very impolite to God to pray in bed, and the Japanese are great sticklers regarding etiquette. But the missionary understood that he was praying, and said: “Isn’t it time for you to be baptized, by now ?”
“Oh, if I were baptized, the family would put me out of the house and I couldn’t go to school anymore.”
“Isn’t that a timid view to take of the case ?”
“Are you calling me a coward ? All right, I want to be baptized.”
It was true that he wanted to be baptized, but also no Japanese boy will ever let you call him a coward! So in two weeks’ time he was in church and teaching a Sunday school class.
Kagawa graduated from high school with flying colors, and his uncle said: “You have learned a great deal of extra English. I will send you to the Imperial University and you can be a foreign diplomat.” Kagawa thanked him profusely, but said: “You know, what I have got to do is to go to theological seminary and be a preacher.” That let the cat out of the bag (about his being a Christian), and he was put out of the house, disinherited. But the missionary got him a scholarship, and he went through junior college, three years in two.
At nineteen, as he was on his way to the theological seminary, spending his summer vacation preaching forty days in the open air at a city about half way along his route, he almost collapsed with tubercular pneumonia. The doctor came belatedly, and said: “There’s no hope for this boy. He won’t live.” Then Kagawa began to pray harder than he ever had prayed before in his life. He prayed for hours and fasted for two meals of the day, just for the gift of life.
It is necessary to pause here in the story to try to understand just what was going on in his mind. According to one definition of religion, he might have been expected to accept that doctor’s verdict―at least with resignation, for by dying he would pass to the safety of heaven, instead of being left to face the most clouded sort of future, a disinherited orphan.
But Kagawa believed that he must go ahead and live so as to make it possible for a great many other people to become Christians, and it was very clear that there were two parts to that job. One was to preach the gospel, and the other was to abolish poverty.
You should know that Kagawa’s father had come from a very rich family which for generations had had charge of nineteen population areas, of 5,000 each, called villages in Japan. He also had been secretary to the Privy Council of the Emperor at one time and had helped start the two big shipping companies that are still sending Japanese boats around the world today. On the other hand, Kagawa’s mother had come from a home down in the slums so poor that they had sold the daughter to provide the rice for the remainder of the family. Kagawa knew that she had obeyed the highest thing she had ever been taught, filial piety, in submitting to this hideous plan, and that she had loved him with a genuine mother’s love.
He also knew that even then, two decades later, many Japanese girls were-still being taught that sort of sacrifice to lighten the poverty of their families, and he figured out that back of the sort of life which had caused the agony of his boyhood was the economic problem, and the economic inequality between his father and mother. He thought he must abolish that economic inequality in order to make the world a real family; so he was praying for the gift of life to go on and work for a great many years to do this.
He had been praying for six hours when the afternoon sun came round the corner; it struck the polished wooden pillar of the alcove of honor which is the focus of attention in the Japanese room. Along with the sunshine Kagawa’s soul was flooded with the love of God, and he knew his prayer was answered. His fever actually began to go down, and the next day the doctor could hardly recognize him as the same patient. In a few days Kagawa was able to return to the reading of the Psalms.
Then came convalescence and his return to school, and we find him two years later―to be exact, on Christmas Eve in 1909―actually beginning to carry out his plan. The other schoolboys had gone home for vacation, and he was left alone in the big airy school dormitory on the hill. He was packing up his belongings and putting them on a small wooden cart and placing himself between the shafts. While he dragged it down through the streets, he passed an occasional church where they were already singing “Joy to the World,” and celebrating Christmas. He was singing it in his heart, too, because this was his long cherished fulfilment.
When he got down to the slums he began to move into his house, which was just six feet square, inside measurement, and one of. Eighty-six of the same size and build. Kagawa thought himself very fortunate to get one of them, because there was always a waiting list of down-and-outs who needed to rent a place for little or nothing. The only reason he could get this one was that a murder had been committed in it. It was supposed to be haunted by a ghost, and therefore no one else dared live in it. He went to the house owner and persuaded him that he thoroughly enjoyed ghosts and so got the house. He had hardly begun to settle his belongings in it before the king of the gamblers arrived, saying: “Kagawa, don’t you want a disciple?”
“How? What kind of disciple do you mean?”
“Oh, give him rice,” said the king of the gamblers, indicating a forlorn figure who hovered behind him.
He explained that this man had been a manual worker and worked for his rice. But now he had heart trouble. When the other laborers got up in the early morning and went off to their work, he got up at the same time and stood outside the house. He had stood thus so many days that the neighbors all called him Mr. Statue, and this nickname was really all he had left in the world. Kagawa took him in, shared his rice and his bed with him, and they spent their Christmas day together.
Then in a few days two other men, equally destitute, joined the family, and Kagawa had four mouths to feed with the rice that was meant for one theological student, and not a grain to spare. He had just eleven yen a month, which at that time was something like $11 in purchasing power. He took to cleaning chimneys for the faculty and so earned five yen more, but the combined sum was not nearly enough to feed four men. They held a family council, and Mr. Statue, who had been the first to arrive, took responsibility. He had had lots of experience in getting along on little or nothing, and he suggested: “It we put ten times as much water in our rice when we cook it, I will make soup, and that will go farther. They thought that a fine idea, and began to eat rice soup.
But then the four realized that there would be a number of days at the end of the month when they would not have even soup, so they had to have another family council, and Mr. Statue made another suggestion. He said, “Let’s eat two meals a day instead of three.” So they actually lived on two meals of rice soup a day for fifty days, and Mr. Statue explained to the others that under this regime it is good etiquette to lie down, and that if you did so and kept very still you wouldn’t feel the pangs of hunger quite so badly. But of course Kagawa could not lie down. He had to dash up the hill to the theological seminary every morning and do his studying and then tramp all about the slums on his social service. There were plenty of emergencies in those early days, and I am sure he became acutely conscious of his stomach.
But there was one other thing that he was even more conscious of, and that was that God was his Father. During those early days he was working out his philosophy of democracy and he based it on two major facts. First, the universal fatherhood of God―God loves every human being as much as he loves you and me. You know the hymn which says, “Count your blessings, name them one by one.” If you do that you can get some degree of understanding of how much God loves you.
Then you can begin to appreciate how much he loves every other human being, and one thing that helps to do that is to sense this other fact upon which Kagawa based his belief in democracy―that every human being has one stomach, not two stomachs, nor four as a cow has. And there are no millionaires in stomachs, but every human being has one stomach, and it is meant to be reasonably filled. It’s almost as bad to have it too full as to have it too empty. You know, when a baby is born its first little cry is a demand to have its stomach filled, and it begins to consume. All babies, and all human beings, are consumers, while only about a quarter of the total number who achieve maturity become producers. But we are all, 100 percent of us, consumers. This is a basic recognition in democracy.
After fifty days of living on two meals a day of rice soup, this large family living in a small house was discovered by a Christian nurse in the neighborhood. She gave Kagawa five yen, and he brought it home and they had a big meal of plenty of well cooked rice. The Japanese don’t like the mushy way we cook our rice. They put in enough water to a drop so that when the rice is done it puffs up like a mountain on top, and every grain is separate from every other grain, nice and chewy. They had plenty of rice cooked like this, and fish and vegetables. As part of the blessing Kagawa said, “Give us this day our daily bread,” and he said those words meant so much more to him than they ever had before that he felt he was saying them for the first time in his life.
Other people besides the nurse learned of what was going on and began to help a little, and Kagawa had money in the house to buy rice and to help the very destitute. He said, however, that at first he had more trouble than he had had before, for the drunkards discovered it and came and demanded money for drink. You cannot lock a house that is six feet square, made mostly of paper sliding doors, and Kagawa was put to it to keep this money from them, for they would come with drawn swords and loaded pistols, whereas he believed in absolute non-resistance and non-violence. (He has said that if he had once departed from that rule, he could not have lived a day in the slums.) Once a drunkard came and with his naked fist punched out Kagawa’s front teeth. When Kagawa comes to America if you hear him speak you may notice that his enunciation is not what it might be, and that there are four very prominent gold teeth in the front of his mouth, put in evidently by a middling sort of dentist.
“It was dangerous, but I enjoyed it,” is Kagawa’s only comment upon this first period of his life in the slums.
He had confined himself to philanthropy while building up his church. He came to the end of this first four years and eight months saying, “One individual working for individuals cannot change society.” He was out to abolish poverty, and he saw he couldn’t do it that way. For every man he could rehabilitate and get out of the slums, a dozen more would drift down in bankrupt farmers driven off the farms, and broken down laborers driven out of the factories and away from other jobs. It was a steady, sluggish stream. “You have to stop it higher up,” said Kagawa. By that he meant that you have to get back to the essentials of the farm problem and the labor problem. So what did he do?
First, he wisely pulled up stakes and went off on his first trip to America and won his Bachelor of Divinity degree at Princeton Theological Seminary in a couple of years. He had studied theology in the seminary in Kobe, so the Dean at Princeton let him take chiefly mathematics and science in the university. Meanwhile Mrs. Kagawa, who had joined him after the first two years in the slums, went to Yokohama and took special Bible training.
They came back to Kobe together after two years, and Kagawa began the new stage in his work. He started to organize his people to help themselves. He did not try to organize the down-and-outs in the slums, for they were too “shot to pieces” already. It was their next door neighbors, their brothers and sisters and sons and daughters, in many cases―the industrial laborers―with whom he began. They could most directly help the slum people―in fact, they could do more than he as an upper class person could do. So he started the first labor school, the first labor newspaper, and then the Japanese Federation of Labor. He wrote a book called “The Adoration of the Laborer,” in which he made the remark which is axiomatic to us in America―that the laborer produces the things which the rest of society needs; therefore his status in society is more essential to it than that of the king.
This was a new idea to the Japanese at that time, and they said, “You are against the Emperor.”
“Oh, no,” he said―and indeed he has always been very patriotic, very loyal.
But they fined him 100 yen for writing that book and suppressed its publication. He says that if he had not paid that fine, the New Testament would have had to pay it, for every word he had in it he had taken out of the New Testament in one way or another.
Kagawa obtained great gains for the laborers. In 1919 came the rice riots, all over Japan, but centering in Kobe where the offending Suzuki Company had cornered the rice and sold it off to France at a high figure. The price of rice soared from 14 sen a measure in January to 62 sen on August 12. The poor people simply could not buy, and for the first time in Japan’s history there was general rioting among them. But in Kagawa’s slum districts in Kobe the police stood by with folded arms to keep the peace, while the people merely took their measure of rice, the amount one family would need for one day, and did not pay for it. The rice dealers made no protest.
In other parts of Kobe, however, there was some violence, and the Governor sat up all night in his office to receive the reports of the rioting. The Mayor rushed in crying, “Call out the troops!” The Governor replied: “These people are not against the government. Didn’t you hear them cheer just now as they passed the government building? If. I should call out the troops, they might make a mistake and kill one of the children of the Emperor.” And he refused to do so, saying that these people were settling the issue with the capitalists in their own way, and it was better to allow them to finish the job.
This Governor worked very closely with Kagawa, behind the scenes. He had become a convert to Kagawa’s principles, for Kagawa had now been in the slums of Kobe for a full decade. All over Japan the leading men in government and business circles suddenly experienced a change of heart because of the rice riots, and established social welfare bureaus in all the city and provincial governments, while Kagawa was permitted to ignore the police regulation against labor organization, and to turn the Labor Benefit Society already existing into a real Labor Federation.
This was very encouraging. But two years later the laborers went a bit beyond bounds. Communistic influence was beginning to come in from Russia, and against Kagawa’s advice one of their leaders declared a general strike in the shipyards of Kobe and Osaka. There came a moment when 35,000 of them were marching around the bend of the hill and turning downward toward the gate of the biggest shipyard, aiming at destroying the machinery. Kagawa was facing up toward them, standing on the little bridge over which they must cross before reaching the shipyard gate. Again he was praying, with all his might, that they might not resort to this particular outburst of violence.
Such was his influence over them by this time that he did not need to say a word, nor did they say much to each other. To tell the truth, they had not expected to find him there, for it was Sunday morning, and they thought he would be in church preaching. As each phalanx came around the corner and discovered him way down there below in front of them, all they did was to nudge each other.
“There’s Kagawa,” they said.
“Yes, Kagawa”―and they were suddenly inspired with another idea as to how to celebrate that particular day, and went off and carried it out peacefully. Kagawa’s prayer was answered again.
This strike failed, and the leaders, more than a hundred of them, were all put into prison, including Kagawa. It was midsummer, and he had been working very hard for a long time trying to prevent violence in the strike, speaking many times a day as a strike leader. He was thoroughly tired out, and the thirteen days in prison were a wonderful rest to him. The prison was much cleaner and more comfortable than his home in the slums. Besides, nobody was allowed to see him, and he had genuine quiet.
He seized the opportunity to finish his next book. His experience at nineteen, which he thought of as “Crossing the Death Line,” had furnished the title of his first autobiographical novel. This had so thoroughly expressed the philosophical strivings of the youth of Japan that it had become a best seller when published a year previously. It happened that the second of the series, called “A Shooter at the Sun,” was to be released to the public while Kagawa lay in prison. There was such a demand for it that the booksellers in Tokyo had agreed among themselves that they would not compete with one another; all of them would release this book at the same moment, at one o’clock on a certain afternoon. It is said that there were queues of people, in some cases 250 long, waiting outside the biggest bookstores to buy this book in Tokyo. Meanwhile its author was down in Kobe finishing the third of the series, which he named from the prison walls, “Listening to the Voice of the Wall.”
After this Kagawa advised the laborers against further violence; that they should be satisfied with their gains and not strike any more for a while. The farmers had read in the newspapers about the labor movement and were sending delegations from all over Japan to ask Kagawa to help them. He decided to give his concentrated attention to the farmers for the next few years.
In Japan farms average 2 and a half acres in size, and such a farm the landowner sublets to several tenants and their families. Someone has said recently that the Japanese farm is hardly big enough for the American farmer to store his farm, implements upon. The tenant farmer, 70 per cent of the total, has to provide his own tools and fertilizer and to pay the landowner on an average of 55 per cent of his crop as land rent. Naturally there are disputes, more than in any other country in the world, between these tenants and the landowners, and neither of them get rich.
Kagawa had been watching the farmers’ plight in Japan for a long while, and a few months after he turned his attention toward them regular delegations from 34 provinces were meeting in his little slum chapel in Kobe, using it as their dormitory and preliminary conference room, while they rented the Kobe Y.M.C.A. for their formal organization. This was in April 1922. As president of the new organization, Kagawa was able to put in a man by the name of Sugiyama, who was extraordinarily well prepared for the job. I shall have to postpone his story till later, but it ought to be almost as well known as Kagawa’s.
Kagawa devoted two full years to the farmers, but he wanted to give them a great deal more. They were in need of the same sort of intensive education by which he had prepared the laborers for their organized activities. But by this time Communism was coming in and competing with the educational work Kagawa could do in this much wider territory of the rural areas. Kagawa himself was regarded as a dangerous character because he had been promoting labor organization and now farmer organization. He was blacklisted. He was under constant police surveillance.
And then one day the Emperor came to Kobe. Kagawa paid a visit to his missionary friends on the hill. But he sat on the edge of his chair, and seemed in a great hurry.
“Why don’t you relax and have a good time? You usually spend the afternoon with us,” said the missionary’s wife.
“I can’t keep my detective waiting,” said Kagawa.
Now Mrs. Myers, the missionary’s wife, knew that Kagawa’s life was in danger almost every day, and she was delighted to think that he had a detective protecting him.
“Since when have you had a personal body guard?” she asked.
“Oh, no, it’s nothing like that,” he replied. “You see, the Emperor is in Kobe, and I am on the blacklist, and every one on the blacklist has a detective assigned to shadow him so that he won’t assassinate the Emperor.”
Kagawa had already started his attempt to win this man to be a Christian; so it was much more important to preserve his friendship with him than to visit his missionary friends that day. In a moment Mrs. Myers went out on the front porch to bid Kagawa good-by―and also to get a firsthand look at a real detective. The man was standing outside the gate waiting patiently, and she saw Kagawa go off arm in arm with him, earnestly trying to influence him to be a Christian.
September 1, 1923, at high noon, came the great earthquake which devastated Tokyo and Yokohama. Everybody’s dinner was cooking on a charcoal brazier. The quake toppled the paper sliding doors and light wood frames of the houses down on top of the braziers, and conflagrations started simultaneously in a thousand places. On the west side of Tokyo, where the more prosperous people lived, there were servant folk to fight the fires, big gardens and parks to break their fury. But on the east side the gardens were tiny, the houses small and crowded close together, and there were no parks whatever. The people rushed out into the streets with bandana handkerchief bundles and toddling children, carrying the old folks and the babies on their backs. The flames came up behind them, and they fled in desperate haste. There was a policeman who advised them to go to the one open space nearby in a factory yard. From thirty-six to forty thousand people crowded in there. The flames came down on all four sides hemming them in. In the morning only two hundred were left alive.
Kagawa got the news at six o’clock on Sunday morning from a laborer who met him on the streets bound church ward, and carrying a newspaper. The church resolved itself into a committee meeting―but that was quite as usual! At the end of the two and a half hours of worship and practical planning, the entire congregation scattered to the twenty-seven other churches of Kobe which would have their services at ten o’clock in the morning. By noon all the Christian community of Kobe had appointed its representatives and the committee met, choosing Kagawa and another pastor to send up to Tokyo for relief work. They got off on the afternoon boat, for there were no trains running.
Kagawa reached Tokyo after many adventures, to find the government buildings in ruins, and government officials nonplussed over the situation. All of a sudden the official who was bearing the heaviest responsibility for rehabilitation realized that Kagawa was the best bulwark against the feared Communism, which would certainly now flame out worse than the physical conflagration in the completely devastated east side of Tokyo, where hundreds of thousands of people were milling around in a place as bare of human habitation as the original plain before a house had been built on it. So, although he had come to Tokyo to work with the churches, Kagawa found to his astonishment that in this crisis the government had reversed its attitude toward him and instead of keeping him on the blacklist was asking him to take a conspicuous part in the work of social as well as physical rebuilding. He was the one man in Japan of the educated classes who had lived down among the poor for years―in his case for fourteen years and eight months.
He knew their psychology. He could lead them constructively. The Premier became the Chairman of the Reconstruction Commission, but Kagawa was asked to furnish much of the brain work for it, and to give his full time for the next three years to educating and organizing the social workers they had gathered from all Japan in this spot of greatest need.
Of course, Kagawa responded to this call as a patriotic duty, but at the same time he did not neglect the churches. He took a census and found that 142 churches were left standing in the Tokyo region, although many had been destroyed. He arranged to preach two nights in each of the usable buildings, and 5,800 people decided to become Christians.
After that came the time when, in a similar series of meetings in Osaka, another 5,000 gathered, and later the Protestant churches realized that this young pastor who was doing so many extraordinary things among the poor was really the evangelistic leader they needed for all Japan. They asked him to organize them in what you have read of in American church journals as “The Kingdom of God Movement.” He promised to give his full time for the next three years to doing so, from 1930 onward.
Kagawa’s definition of the Kingdom of God Movement, however, includes all these forms of organizing―the organizing of laborers and farmers and social workers, as well as pastors. The latter was only one section of his total program for the Kingdom of God Movement. It is interesting to note that in Japan one man has actually organized all four of these significant leadership groups in society. It is probably a unique story, and it gives hope for solidarity and achievement in the future. Kagawa is only forty-six now, and there is much more to be expected from his leadership. His whole movement is in fact a youth movement. In five years of this Kingdom of God Movement, up to the end of 1933, there were 65,000 cards of decision handed into Kagawa’s hands through the ushers in his own meetings, not counting those of the more than forty other evangelists or lecturers on the official lists of the Kingdom of God Movement.
An amusing incident occurred at the outset of this crusade. The pastors understood that Kagawa had promised them his full time for the next three years. I was present at one committee meeting of the central executive committee in Tokyo when one of its members rushed in bearing a newspaper with Kagawa’s picture in it, and a long article telling about how he had now been made head of the Social Bureau of Tokyo. “He has broken his promise to us,” this pastor cried. “He’s gone off and forgotten.”
Kagawa himself was away at the moment on evangelistic work in the interior, but he came back to the next committee meeting and explained that he had not deserted the pastors. He believed in practicing what he preached, he said, and he had now been preaching on a nation-wide scale for some time, and he didn’t have the face to go ahead and preach to the Japanese people on a still wider scale without practicing in a commensurate way. The incoming Mayor of Tokyo, a very socially minded man, Horikiri by name, had sent for him, I think, and said that he could not carry on as Mayor and do the things he wanted to accomplish unless Kagawa would become head of the Social Bureau, and he had offered him a big salary of 18, 000 yen a year with emoluments. (In purchasing power a yen is about equal to a dollar, although in actual exchange it is only about 28 cents.)
Kagawa had considered a while and then had said to the Mayor: “I’ll accept the job on two conditions―first, that you don’t make me take the money, and second that you obey me.” The Mayor had accepted his conditions, and Kagawa had taken the job. While he bore this tremendous civic responsibility he spent ten days a month of office time, from nine in the morning to five in the evening, in the Social Bureau. The evenings of those ten days he spent in preaching in the 268 churches in the Tokyo region. There were more churches there than in any other part of Japan and they needed a great deal of attention. The other twenty days he was all over the country on his evangelistic program. At the end of four years of it 65,000 converts had been gathered in, because, as Kagawa says, “Christianity is common sense in Japan now. The Japanese like to see practice go along with preaching.”
What Kagawa had been doing as head of the Social Bureau was to turn its old-fashioned charities into cooperatives. Japan has experienced the depression twice as long as we have had it in America, and the middle class people, 90 per cent of them in Tokyo, had lost their property and been reduced below the poverty level. But they had kept their self-respect, and Kagawa knew that if the Social Bureau was really to serve them, they must have not mere charity but democratic self-help organizations. All through the years he had been trying to meet the needs of the industrial laborers in Japan, he had been studying also the precedents to be found in the history of England and Europe. He had read the history of the “hungry forties” in England, the decade between 1840 and 1850 when there was so much economic distress and political disillusionment due to the introduction of machines.
During this period three great techniques were invented in England as efforts to meet the situation. One of them was trade unionism. Another was political socialism, the effort to get better conditions through the use of the vote. I must tell you that after Kagawa had organized both laborers’ and farmers’ federations, he got them together and succeeded in a campaign for universal manhood suffrage, a reform which had failed to carry for thirty years, while only intellectuals were backing it. It was actually achieved just ten years ago, in May 1925, and there is a strong movement for women’s suffrage, which Kagawa has aided.
The third great technique Kagawa discovered in the history of England in the hungry forties was based on the “democracy of the stomach.” There were 28 poor flannel weavers in the village of Rochdale near Manchester who had asked for a rise in wages and had been refused. They badly needed it; and they had plenty of other troubles, too. But the worst of them was that they could not buy flour anywhere in Rochdale which did not have cement dust in it to make it heavier so that they would have to pay more, and of course without any regard for their stomachs. So the weavers put their wits and their pennies together, saving each of them a tuppence (a nickel) a week for more than a year, and on December 21, 1844, with their combined savings of $140 they opened their own store, becoming owners of it as well as buyers from it. They put into it pure flour of a kind they once had been able to produce on their own farm’s, and butter and oatmeal.
The weavers were so poor at the start that they could afford to have their store open only two evenings a week. It was actually seven years before they could have that store open every day in the week. But the principles on which they started were so sound that today those 28 weavers―and one woman among them, Ann Treedale by name―have become 28 million. They are operating one-sixth of the retail business of England, and 150 factories. Their Rochdale plan has spread into forty countries of the world, and has a membership as big as the population of China, 500 million.
In 1918 Kagawa began to organize the industrial laborers of Japan into Rochdale Consumers’ Cooperatives. Because he was 100 per cent loyal to the Rochdale principles, his cooperatives became a model for other cooperatives in Japan, and are so cited in the official reports.
Kagawa did not start the Cooperative Movement in Japan. In 1900, only 30 years after capitalism had been introduced into Japan, a minister of the interior, Tasuke Hirata, had become concerned over the danger of violent revolution. Not as a government official but as an individual he had imported one form of the Cooperative Movement, the Schulze-Delitzsch system of credit unions from Germany. The credit union is a poor man’s bank, a small savings and loan association which saves the poor from the loan sharks. It had been started in Germany by a young Christian mayor, Raiffeisen by name, who found himself in the midst of a famine-stricken village with many other famine-stricken villages around him. Raiffeisen had the same habit Kagawa had, that of getting down on his knees and praying to God when he met a difficulty. He asked God what to do with his famine-stricken village, and God gave him a bank―a bank which would help the poor man first. This was the Raiffeisen credit union, which had spread all over Germany. Later a modification of it was invented which did not help the poor man quite so much; this was the Schulze-Delitzsch system. This, however, was quite successful in Japan and became the typical farmers’ bank, encountering no opposition because all the farmers are poor there. There are 12,000 credit unions in Japan now, but Kagawa has been doing his best lately to make them of the Raiffeisen type instead of the Schulze-Delitzsch type, so that they will help the poor tenant farmer instead of the more prosperous landowner.
When Kagawa started in 1918 to organize the city laborers into consumers’ cooperatives, he thus found an existing cooperative federation to tie to, and some fairly good laws to work under. His chief difficulty at the outset came from the Communists. The year before, in 1917, Lenin had become the leader of the government in Russia. Lenin thought that the big Consumers’ Cooperative Movement in Russia―the biggest in the world, quantitatively―was much too “pale and palliative” for the social revolution, and he abolished it.
A year later, when Kagawa began to organize the same system in Japan, he had to spend many a night under the same mosquito net with a laborer Communist, arguing pro and con. “You are trying to start a palliative,” his friend would say, and Kagawa would try to show him how this was not a palliative but the only thoroughgoing way in which to bring to pass economic reconstruction.
Then Lenin got his famines. He couldn’t manage the problem of distribution all over Russia without the cooperatives.
In 1921 he reestablished them and then Kagawa’s erstwhile opponents, the Communists, came flocking to the doors of his now well-established cooperatives, asking to be admitted. By this time he had learned that the Communists’ chief idea was to use any such organization as a vehicle for their propaganda for violent revolution, and he would not admit them. So they went off and started another system of cooperatives, called the Moscow system, in which the profits are given to the state.
This system flourished for a while among the laborers side by side with Kagawa’s Rochdale cooperatives, which gave the profits to the purchasers in proportion to their purchases, but the Moscow cooperatives died out after a while, and the Rochdale system is the permanent one in Japan, as in every other country.
You will want to know what has made these Rochdale cooperatives so successful, and it is as simple as a-b-c.
First, Economic Democracy. One man, one vote, or one woman, one vote, even though one person might conceivably put in ten times as much money as another. Voting is on the basis of personality, and this is a great change from our present system. In 1776 we tried to start a democracy in America, and we thought that it was enough to establish it in politics―one man, one vote, in politics. Unconsciously we were bringing over at the same time from Europe the old system of economics which dated back to the divine right of kings. In 1776 the richest 2 per cent in America owned only 5 per cent of the wealth, and economics didn’t matter very much, but now the richest 2 per cent own 80 per cent of the wealth, while at the other end of the scale one-third of the American citizens live below the poverty level.
Thus we have reached the same extremes in economic inequality inside our American national family that Kagawa began with in his Japanese national family, and in the last five or six years of economic breakdown we have suffered all sorts of other agonies, the sort of thing that he suffered in his boyhood, resulting from the economic inequalities in his family. We are in a position to seek his solution, and we find it, strangely enough, not away across the world in Japan, but in these countries nearest to us in geographical location and race and culture and religion―the countries of northwest Europe, the countries that had sense enough to stay out of the world war, excepting Finland, which by reason of its political connection with Russia was forced to go in. (Finland is the only one of the belligerents who has paid her war debts to the United States.) England, too, is a relatively cooperative country, but we must realize that in England the movement has remained a working-class one; the upper class people who got England into the war have not yet been affected by it. These upper class people of England think in terms of British imperialism all over the world. Economic democracy does not seem to exist for them yet, although it has been a fact in history for ninety years.
Second, the Rochdale weavers made their next principle Fairness to Capital. All invested capital was to have interest at the current rate.
Third, they made the discovery that they must be fair not only to invested capital, but that there must also be Fairness to the Customer in their little store. You have seen plenty of stores in the last five or six years with good stocks and a good staff, which still were not successful because they did not have a sufficient volume of trade. The weavers had the wit to understand that it is the customer who makes the store, and so they decided that they would pay back the profits to the purchasers in proportion to their purchases. This was fair and also it put the whole plan upon the basis of human need. It is a rough but pretty accurate way to put back purchasing power among the multitudes who need it. In the last five years of economic breakdown in other parts of the world and other parts of England, it has enabled the English Cooperative Wholesale Society to give back more than 600 million dollars to its members.
This has a fundamental relation to world peace. Do you know what got the United States into the world war? Wilson had just been inaugurated on the slogan, “He kept us out of war,” when Page, our Ambassador to England, sent a cablegram to Wilson, saying in effect: “Unless we go into the world war in a hurry, we will lose our profits in Europe.” In a month and a day we were in the world war! The full text of this cablegram was released by the United States government early in January 1935 as the result of the munitions investigation by the senate. It was released to all the press agencies, but only five of the newspapers of the United States would print it!
Why? Perhaps for the same reason that the father of Colonel Lindbergh was ostracized almost as much as his son has been praised, when in the war period he wrote a book giving the statistics already quoted, that 2 per cent of the United States’ citizens own 80 per cent of the wealth. The elder Lindbergh’s book was suppressed at the time, but now, fifteen years later, we have passed through sufficient suffering “so that we are somewhat ready to face the fact he tried to publish in the interests of all the people. Discussion is no longer spelled “disloyalty.”
Whether or not the newspapers of the United States will publish the facts, the great body of the common people want them and want to know what to do about them.
We are facing the possibility of another world war which we know would mean the annihilation of humanity, because of the scientific perfection of our instruments of destruction. How shall we prevent it? Kagawa says there are four kinds of pacifists. There is the emotional pacifist, who just naturally hates war; the conscientious pacifist, who gets into prison because of his conscientious objection to war; and the rational pacifist who starts a League of Nations. Probably most of us are all three of these kinds of pacifists at the same time, and all of them are important. But Kagawa says no one of them will attain their objectives until the fourth kind of pacifist, the economic pacifist, gets in his work. Wars are caused by economic competition and the only way to stop them is by reconstruction in economics.
In 1917, when we got into the world war, the sequence of events had been something like this. Two per cent of the people had come to own 80 per cent of the wealth. They couldn’t spend it on themselves, so they had to follow economic tradition and reinvest it to make more profits. (I am not blaming anyone. It is nobody’s fault. It’s only a defect in the system.) By 1917 and long before, America had come to the end of its pioneering period. It was no longer possible to reinvest profitably such large sums of wealth as the two per cent had accumulated inside our own country, so they had to take it over to Europe.
The dollar, when it goes overseas, is entirely conscienceless, and yet it demands government protection. Thus all of us were forced into the world war to protect the profits of the 2 per cent in Europe.
Kagawa says that only 5 per cent of the Japanese are in favor of militarism, and the other 95 per cent are pacifist. It is easy to understand this in the light of our own experience, for I doubt if more than 5 per cent would possibly have gone into the world war for the motive of protecting our profits in Europe. Now we are facing the possibility of war with Japan, and for the same sort of reason. The Christian Century of March 6, 1935, contained an article by an impartial observer who is not at all a partisan of Japan, listing the reasons why we might get into a war with that country. Every one of them is connected with American imperialism in China. How shall we prevent this? The only way to do it is to work on this business of “economic theology,” as Kagawa calls it, by which at one stroke we can guarantee both world peace and plenty for all.
Do not make the mistake here in expecting it to come overnight. There is the “inevitability of gradualness” about this method. It has been growing slowly for ninety years, but now that the time is ripe for it well informed leaders think that if we work hard for fifteen years in America we can catch up with Europe in this business of cooperative economics. America is the richest country in the world, and if we do catch up with Europe, we shall have guaranteed the financial destinies of the world, and prevented the world war that we fear. The way to do it is to withdraw these vast sums of wealth which are being accumulated through the automatic power production of the twentieth century―not to return the profits to invested capital, but to put them back into the hands of the millions of purchasers who need them to go on with their purchasing.
In April 1934 I met an American lady in the presence of Dr. Kagawa in Tokyo. She had come to Japan to dedicate some mission buildings for which she had raised the money, and then had insisted on seeing Kagawa. She said to me: “The mind of America has changed in the last five years of economic breakdown. You should come and tell Americans about Kagawa’s whole program, the things that are not written in the books. You know, the books devote pages to his personality, but they don’t tell what he is driving at.”
I crossed the Pacific Asiatic third-class for $60, not knowing at all what I should find here. I routed myself by Vancouver so as to be able to stop at Minneapolis, for the one pamphlet
I had received about the Cooperative Movement in America had been written by Hugh J. Hughes, who lives in Minneapolis. I reached Chicago and filled a few engagements kindly made for me by this lady. The remainder of the time, for a year, I have been completely busy, without any vacation, just telling the American people, especially the church people, what they so much want to know about this Cooperative Movement.
I have been educated, myself, by a great many responses in my meetings from people who have had experience in England and Europe in this movement.
“We always used to go to the cooperative store in Scotland and ask for Danish butter because it was the best,” one lady said to me, “and then at the end of the year we would get our patronage dividend, and it would pay our entire house rent, with sometimes a little bit for savings besides.”
I thought that was a good story, and told it to the next Scotch lady I met. She took the wind out of my sails by saying, ‘They must have lived in a small house.” I thought a while, and then decided that made the story better than ever, for of course they did live in a small house. The Rochdale movement begins with people who have to live in small houses. It begins in situations of economic distress, and that is why it is pertinent to our situation in America, and throughout the Occident, at the present moment.
Another lady present at this same meeting of good Presbyterian women in their annual conference for the state of Michigan, had also come from Scotland. She said, “My grandmother taught me, concerning the consumers’ cooperative system, to say ‘the more you eat, the more the dividend,’ ” and that is the byword for it among the canny Scotch. A great many of them seem to know it, as I have met them in my various meetings. “I wonder why I never told about this movement when I came to America to be married,” said one of these ladies to me. “Of course, I know that the impression here in America was that anything we told that was good about the old country was mere bragging―there was no truth in it. But on the other hand, I knew my grandmother had thought it terrible for me to come to the United States, because that was the country to which they had always sent their ex-convicts!”
A pastor of a church in Columbus voiced the same wonderment. “Why have I not begun before to work for this movement in America?” he said. “Twenty-five years ago in England I was living in a boarding house kept by a widow who was actually buying the house over our heads out of her patronage dividends.”
The Cooperative Movement in England takes care of its widows. My own mother-in-law was set up in business after her husband’s death and given both a house and means of livelihood merely because of her membership in a consumers’ cooperative,” said Michael Dodd in Wichita, Kansas, and he told other stories of the way in which the consumers’ cooperatives can be depended upon in an emergency of human need.
Some business man will now be asking, “But what about the independent retail dealer who is displaced?” My first answer to that question is that the cooperatives don’t displace him. It is the chain store rather than the cooperative which is the real menace to the independent grocer. The cooperative, according to the Rochdale plan, sells at the current rates―or perhaps it would be better to say the normal rates―and so doesn’t start a price war to undercut the independent dealer. Moreover, it invites him eventually into a place in its own ranks. There is no coercion about this. It begins as small as a mustard seed and grows gradually, but by and by when the birds come to roost in its branches, the retailer is likely to choose to be one of the birds. In Sweden, the cooperative movement is taking on 5,000 men a year, experts and executives as well as men in the ranks. The business man who sees the future will study this movement, perhaps as a church member leading a church group in a thorough-going study; having thus educated his own customers he will organize them into a consumers’ society which will reemploy him on a permanent and good salary to be the manager of the business. Thus he will be guaranteed both security and the profound satisfactions that come from prestige based on genuine community service. It may, of course, take quite a period of preliminary education to get all business men to see this. The pastor of the business man’s church may have to take the lead in educating him; then the business man who has had the economic responsibility hitherto will combine his feeling of economic responsibility with that other feeling which he has of Christian responsibility and become in his turn a leader in the new movement.
There is an important place right here for the women’s missionary society. The woman is the consumer par excellence. Her husband is the producer, and as such he may have poked fun at her job of consuming, thinking it a slight matter for her to do the shopping and the cooking for the individual family. What every woman knows, however, is that this business of consuming requires just as much skill as that of producing for the individual family. It will take only a slight study of the actualities of present-day affairs for the woman consumer to realize the infinite importance of a nation-wide business of consumption.
In this country at the start we had an economics of scarcity. We needed to produce, and we produced and produced and produced, until all of a sudden we had overproduction, and we thought we needed to limit production. So we burned up carloads of food and poured out milk on the ground in one place while the babies were still needing it in another. We plowed under the cotton and the corn and killed the little pigs, and the paradox of the economics of plenty into which we have now moved is that it is because we have too much that we have too little. More than twenty millions are unemployed or dependent on those who are unemployed and therefore are suffering. All this is because we lack an adequate system of consumption to go along with our system of production on a nation-wide scale. I think we can trust the women to grasp this fact and to take some initiative in educating their own husbands.
Since I landed in this country, I have come to think of my own cousins as typical of the American business man. The wife of one of them was very anxious to get him educated on this matter of consumers’ cooperation, and so arranged for him to drive us up to a summer conference. We talked hard and fast all the way, and yet at the end of the trip she was afraid he hadn’t grasped the importance of the idea. But the second time I saw him, two months later in the summer, he had asked her to invite me to dinner to convert a pastor, and then he took the words right out of my mouth. He said: “You know, we have got to come to this cooperative economics. It’s the only way to do business in the future.” And he cited the case of the credit union in his own company as proof. This man was in charge of the Kraft cheese demonstration at the World’s Fair in Chicago.
Another cousin lives in one of the most conservative cities in America, and is a wholesaler in pottery. He met me with the statement that 80 per cent of the people of the United States are convinced of the need for economic change, and then he continued, “I am interested in the cooperatives from the idealistic point of view, but also selfishly. I want to sell my pottery to them, for I know that they would pay their bills. They are good business.” This seems to be the reason why many middlemen are becoming interested in the cooperatives. I heard of a bank man who learned to like the consumers’ cooperative in his community because its manager would periodically bring in a check for several hundred dollars and make a bona fide deposit of it in the local bank. This helped both the bank and the community. The chain store man also would bring in a similar sum of money and appear to deposit it, but in reality he would turn it into a draft on New York, and the money would go off to Amsterdam.
The churches have a great opportunity here. For hundreds of years they have been educating their members in the teachings of the Bible. “He that will be greatest among you, let him become least of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:44.) What is this but the business man becoming the employee of his own customers? Now of course, to do so he may have to give up some of his inflated prestige based on the mere possession of money. It may take a redemption as well as an education to change his attitudes and desires to such an extent.
“Christ was prophet, priest and king,” Kagawa says, and in developing this Cooperative Movement we need first of all the work of the prophet, who is the educator. We need a lot of education, from six months to a year of it at the outset. The priest is a redeemer. We have done a great deal of soul saving in individual religion, and we need to do some in social religion as well. The pastor may have to do a great deal of the work of redemption among his own business-men church members, but when that work has proceeded far enough the work of the king can commence. The king is the organizer, and it says in the Book of Revelations that we are all meant to be kings. In the Consumers’ Cooperative Movement, where the people’s initiative is evoked and integrated, we attain to this collective kingship. The ideal for the business man then becomes different from the old divine right of the multimillionaires. When we beheaded King Charles I, I think we beheaded the divine right of kings. At least, since then we have never had quite the same friendliness for the idea, (Don’t think that I approve of any kind of violence, but this is merely a fact in the history of long ago.) In the same way, when Insult was exposed recently, even though nominally acquitted, I think that the divine right of multimillionaires was similarly decapitated.
We have already passed into a new era, and perhaps the head of the Swedish Cooperative Union might be a good example of it. He has been offered a salary of $100,000 a year in capitalistic business, but he prefers to put his $100,000 ability at the service of the Cooperative Movement. There he gets $5,000 a year, but he has the love of the whole Swedish people and the prestige based not upon inflated money power, but upon genuine service to the whole community. He also has permanent security. Popular magazines in America are publishing articles about the happy state of Sweden today because of the large amount of cooperative business which is interpenetrating the existing capitalistic system there.
Kagawa says there are seven forms of the Cooperative Movement which we need in an interlocking and international system to guarantee both peace and plenty for all. (We might reduce these seven to four, because the last three are all different forms of consumers’ cooperatives.)
The first form is the basic store form, the consumers’ cooperative of which we have been talking.
The second is the producers’ cooperative, which grew out of the consumers’ movement in Denmark. It was Pastor Sonne there who was preaching to harbor laborers down on the quay, a way out of his usual environment, when they said: “Reverend Pastor, it is very good that you teach us to find God, but could you not also help us to find our daily bread?” Sonne accepted this challenge, and began to look about for a method. Providentially, at that moment a friend informed him about the little movement that had just started in Rochdale, and he began it in Denmark. Later a business man, Jorgensen by name, devoted his life and his fortune to extending this movement. Still later, because Denmark is chiefly agricultural, the greatest development came in producers’ societies out in the country.
We have no space here to tell the wonderful story of Denmark, of how this movement has really saved it from economic despair, but we may remark in passing that Kagawa says Denmark is the most Christian country in the world, because of the excellent balance it has between the consumer and producer sides of the Cooperative Movement. The Danish farmer, they say, is a member of five or six different sorts of cooperative at the same time. Practically all his economic operations are carried on cooperatively, and his income, from being one of the worst, has in about eighty years risen to be the best average income of all the farmers of Europe. His degree of culture is way ahead of that of the average American farmer. Every Danish farmer has his library full of books, a special room devoted to them. He is interested in all world affairs; and when he goes to his farmers’ dinner parties, they say he wears a dress suit!
Denmark has abolished her navy, having no fear of international wars. She does not need to fear economic collision with any foreign country because she has solved her problem by exporting all her products by prearrangements through the international marketing cooperatives, which are the third form of the cooperative movement to be noted. The Danish producers’ cooperatives sell their bacon and butter and eggs to the British consumers’ cooperatives. They do not need to waste their energy on advertising and so can place their whole emphasis on quality. Therefore, as you remember, the people in Scotland ask for the Danish butter because it is the best, and we have it on the high authority of our Minister to Denmark, Ruth Bryan Owen, that if ever a question should arise about any Danish egg that was being eaten in Great Britain, you could trace it back, not only to the particular farm in Denmark where it was laid, but to the particular hen that laid it.
We have already told the story of the credit union, the fourth form of the Cooperative Movement. And the fifth is the utilities cooperative. Both of these are merely adaptations of the consumers’ cooperative, the one to banking and the other to consumer ownership of utilities. In the Tennessee Valley Authority there is just now a fascinating development of utilities’ cooperatives, which are one step better than public political ownership, being more secure in the hands of the consumer owners than in the hands of the politicians. In Japan we have a great development of utilities’ cooperatives, including land utility cooperatives.
Japan is about the size of the state of Montana, and its population of 65,000,000 must be supported on a territory 10,000 square miles smaller than that of the state of California, only 15 per cent of which is arable. For its arable area, it is the most densely populated country on the face of the globe. Land, therefore, is hard to get hold of in Japan, and very few can afford to own it. But there are the mountains. Kagawa is teaching his people to plant tree crops on these hitherto uncultivated areas, to raise chestnuts and walnuts upon them for human food and acorns for hog feeding; and also to import goats and sheep from Australia for milk and woolen clothing, since there is not sufficient pasturage for larger animals. The individual farmer cannot do this, but whole villages are organizing themselves into land cooperatives such as the one which is the theme of Kagawa’s rural novel entitled “A Grain of Wheat”―the title suggested by the twelfth chapter of John.
This novel, which embodies Kagawa’s pioneering in the reconstruction of the starving villages of Japan, at once became another best seller. After running in serial form it was published as a book and ran into hundreds of editions. Then it was filmed by a commercial company, and has been shown by another commercial company―many copies of it simultaneously―all over the country for the past four years. The literary secretary of the World Student Christian Federation wrote from Geneva asking for a copy of it to be shown at the world prohibition congress in London during the summer of 1934. The film was so popular in Japan that I had great difficulty in getting a copy of it for America. It had been ordered to be shown in all the grade schools of the Tokyo district by the district governor.
But when I came to show this film at an American state university, the faculty audience commented upon it, “It contains too much Christianity and too much prohibition for the United States.” Immediately the representative of the milkmen, who was organizing them into a cooperative and was present at the showing of this film, was on his feet in an impassioned protest against the faculty decision. Being the only proletarian present he was saying: “This film gives us the release of personality that we must have before we can become leaders in organizing the Cooperative Movement. We of the laboring classes are oppressed by inferiority complexes. This film gives us the spiritual inspiration we need to release us for genuine emancipation and economic reconstruction.”
I may remark also that the leader among the faculty people wrote a letter to me several weeks later, saying: “That film has been working in my mind, and I have repented. I think we do need it in America.”
The last two of the seven forms of the Cooperative Movement urged by Kagawa are the insurance cooperatives and the mutual aid cooperatives. Cooperative insurance includes all forms of social insurance―widows’ pensions and old age pensions, and even education insurance. You send your children to college, and you go to college yourself, on education insurance.
But everything else in philanthropy, relief and charity, not included under the insurances, is covered, Kagawa says, by mutual aid cooperatives. These grow normally after the consumers’ and producers’ cooperatives have come to the point where they can vote funds by common consent for the purposes of mutual aid. Thus we are relieved on the one hand from the mounting money burden for relief which now oppresses us in America. On the other hand, the mutual aid system eliminates the inferiority complex of the man on relief, which demoralizes him. It is said that after a man has been unemployed for two years, he is no longer employable. There is also the corresponding and equally serious superiority complex of the case worker, who gets an inflated ego because so much money has been put into her hands to administer. “We should like to see every social worker in her grave,” laughed a committee of the unemployed recently―when it was in a good humor. “We would willingly dig the graves for all the social workers,” they reiterated.
In contrast to the exaggerated and artificial relations between social workers and relief recipients that everybody is talking about now, and that are one of the most serious problems in this present situation for religious people, there is the story of the head of Kagawa’s cooperative hospital in Tokyo. This man, a children’s specialist at the top of his profession and in the prime of life, told us on the opening day of the hospital why he had gone into it. He had been the head of the children’s bureau of the Tokyo medical social service department, and had been getting a good salary with a perfectly secure position for life. But he said he had been sixteen or seventeen years in medical social service, and he had found that he simply could not fulfill his professional life purpose on the old charity basis. He said that the great majority of the folks who needed him had too much self-respect to come on the dole. They would let their children die first. On the other hand, the minority who did come were demoralized psychologically by the acceptance of charity. They lost their self-respect, and while their children’s bodies were getting better their homes were getting worse. In order to fulfill his fundamental life purpose as a professional man, and also because he had received the Christian motivation during his student days through the Y.M.C.A. in his medical university, he resigned his good salary and came into the precarious new hospital adventure of the Cooperative Movement.
But in a few days we found it was not so precarious. Not only the waiting rooms but also the halls of the little hospital were crowded by mothers and babies, with all sorts of patients waiting to see one or another of the physicians of the complete expert medical unit which had been installed. It was the happiest place in Tokyo, and many former Communists had joined it, being glad to relinquish their ideas of social improvement through violent revolution if they might be able to join even one unit of the new society upon a love basis.
Before Kagawa started that cooperative hospital in Tokyo there had been ten small rural medical cooperatives in existence for some years, which had tested and proved the method in Japan. Then came the great depression, and 2,321 population areas with 5,000 people in each were deserted by the doctors because they could no longer make a living in them under the old hit-or-miss profit system. The patients simply did not pay fees. In many other areas preventive medicine had ceased to exist. The byword was: “The doctor has gone to so-and-so’s today―there will be a funeral there next week”; the reason being that the people had become so poor they simply could not afford to call the doctor until the patient was actually dying.
This despite the fact that there are seventeen big medical universities in Japan turning out physicians trained in modern medicine every year. There are plenty of good physicians even for the large population, but the old system of distribution had broken down. So Kagawa started the hospital in Tokyo, and because Japan is very Tokyo-minded many others sprang up quickly. There are now at least sixty-seven of these hospitals, recognized by the government as cooperatives, and a hundred more places in which they are in various stages of formation.
They have reduced what the farmer has to pay for his annual doctoring from 28 per cent to 9 per cent of his annual average income, and restored preventive medicine to the rural districts in many of the most poverty-stricken regions.
Naturally there was some opposition from the physicians, for Kagawa found that the physician who treated the farmer was getting just twelve times as much as his patient for his annual average income the farmer was getting 450 yen a year, and the physician was getting that same amount per month. Moreover the physicians are organized into a physicians’ association with branches everywhere, and have power to fix the minimum fees which all physicians must charge. But Kagawa wrote a book to show the physicians of Japan that their future hope is in this new system, that they themselves need the security which it will offer, and the permanent good salaries. He also publishes a weekly news sheet primarily for the physicians to keep them up-to-date with the astonishingly rapid growth of the new movement. Though some are laggards, many of the finest physicians of Japan are dedicating not merely their clinic time but their whole future lives and their fortunes to this movement.
It is encouraging to find similar developments in America. In a certain city, which must not as yet be mentioned by name, there is a group of seven physicians at work educating their own patients to consumer-consciousness. They have already put them on a flat rate per year for payment, and when the patients are a little farther along in their own commitment to the ideas of the Cooperative Movement, these doctors are going to call a meeting at which the patients will proceed to organize themselves as consumers and reemploy the physicians on good salaries. This is the right way to do it. When you get into a hospital, you are likely to suffer, and when you get out again you suffer a great deal more paying the bills. The cooperative principle is that you as a consumer patient are the one who should own the hospital. Experience proves that this is the best form of socialized medicine. The doctors and nurses are the employees, at good salaries, and they are also members of the cooperative and equally interested in the enterprise. The psychological relationship among them all is vastly improved over the present system, and the patients get well a great deal faster.
Just a word in closing to clarify our minds by a comparison between the three men and the three foreign countries that are now impinging upon the lives of all of us―Lenin and Russia, Gandhi and India, Kagawa and Japan. Lenin, trying to save his people, used dictatorship of the proletariat and violence. We turn to Gandhi and we like him because in the worst caste-ridden country in the world he is building a reconciled community of all classes in one fellowship, and he is basing his movement on absolute non-violence and non-resistance.
Kagawa is with him 100 per cent in these methods and goes ahead of him in at least three others, in all of which he is a cooperator. Gandhi came to the place where he declared himself a non-cooperator with government. One can’t blame him. Kagawa had his own government instead of a foreign government to deal with, and so may have had the advantage, but he endured a great deal of persecution from his government until finally he won its confidence, and since the earthquake of 1923, although refusing to accept either political office or money from the government, he has been on two or more national government commissions as a volunteer worker. He tells us that government is not good as a dictatorship, but that government can be made to back up and enforce and stabilize and subsidize the initiative of the people, once that is evoked and integrated in a Consumers’ Cooperative Movement.
Again; where Gandhi would bid us turn back to the pre-machine, hand-spinning stage, Kagawa is a cooperator with the machine age, or rather with the automatic power production age into which we entered at the beginning of the twentieth century. Kagawa says the machine was created by man under the guidance of God, and it does not need to victimize him. If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that as yet we are victims of the machine. Kagawa is showing us how, by consumer control and eventual consumer ownership, we can make the machine serve humanitarian purposes, and this is a technique we desperately need today.
Also, where Gandhi remained a Hindu, Kagawa became a Christian. That means he is a cooperator with us in the same organization. He is moreover going away ahead of us and demonstrating a new and comprehensive definition of what a Christian is meant to be in this modern age.
To preach the gospel and to abolish poverty was Kagawa’s concept of his Christian duty at nineteen. Today he calls all Christians to a similar program, and defines its methods as three-fold. Evangelism always comes first and foremost with him; education is a close second; social organization, in which the organizing of the cooperatives is the chief feature, completes the trio. When people ask you if you are a Christian, he says, do not answer glibly in the affirmative, but rather, in all humility, reply that you are trying to become a Christian. And the way to become one is to qualify along these lines.
“As you know,” he wrote recently regarding his 1936 trip to the United States, “I am much interested in the organization of cooperative societies because I believe that only through them can the necessary economic foundation of world peace be laid. These cooperatives must be imbued with the ideals of Christian love and service. It follows that I am interested in speaking to already existing cooperative organizations as well as to church groups. Somehow these two groups must be brought together to the end that the cooperatives become Christian and the churches become cooperative.”
That is a program in which each of us has a part and a responsibility.
[For further information concerning the Cooperative Movement write The Cooperative League of the U.S.A., 343 S. Dearborn St. Chicago ills.] Copyright 1935 by Willett, Clark & Company