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Born Dec. 3, 1859, in the village of Hadegi, Mimasaka Province, now part of the settlement of luge, Kumicho District, Okayama Prefecture; died Nov. 5, 1933, in Moscow. Prominent figure in the Japanese and international workers’ movement.
The son of a peasant, Katayama began working as a typesetter in Tokyo in 1881. In 1884 he went to the USA, where he worked while completing his studies. After graduating from Yale University in 1895, he returned to Japan in 1896 and took an active part in organizing the socialist and workers’ movement. Katayama helped found the Society for Assisting the Organization of Trade Unions; the Steelworkers’ Union, the first Japanese trade union (1897); and the Society for the Study of Socialism (1898). In 1901 he helped organize the Japanese Social Democratic Party, which was immediately disbanded by the government, and in 1903–04 he contributed frequently to the newspaper Heimin Shimbun.
Elected a member of the bureau of the Executive Committee of the Second International in absentia in 1900, Katayama attended the Amsterdam Congress of the Second International in 1904, where he strongly opposed the Russo-Japanese War. In 1911, Katayama was arrested for organizing a strike of the Tokyo streetcar workers and spent nine months in prison. In 1914 police repression forced him to emigrate to the USA, where he joined the American socialist movement and organized the first Communist groups among Japanese workers in the USA (1918). In 1920 he translated Lenin’s book State and Revolution into Japanese.
To escape persecution by the police, Katayama went to Mexico in 1921 and later to Soviet Russia. Elected a member of the Executive Committee of the Comintern in 1922, Katayama later became a member of the Presidium of the Executive Committee and was instrumental in founding the Communist Party of Japan (CPJ) in 1922. Consistently opposing deviations within the CPJ, he worked to strengthen the party ideologically and organizationally and to broaden its ties with the working people. Katayama attended the anti-imperialist congresses in Brussels in 1927 and in Frankfurt-am-Main in 1929, as well as the antiwar congress in Amsterdam in 1932. He is buried on Red Square near the Kremlin Wall.
WORKSStat’i i memuary (K stoletiiu so dnia rozhdeniia). Moscow, 1959.
Vospominaniia. Moscow, 1964. (Translated from Japanese.)
A. N. ROMANOV