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Struggle session

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Title: Struggle session  
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Subject: Cultural Revolution, Great Leap Forward, Feudal fascism, Mao Zedong, Feng Baiju
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Struggle session

Struggle session
Mao-era propaganda for struggle sessions
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 批鬥大會
Simplified Chinese 批斗大会

A struggle session was a form of public humiliation used by the Communist Party of China in the Mao Zedong era to shape public opinion and to humiliate, persecute, and/or execute political rivals and class enemies. In general, the victim of a struggle session was forced to admit to various crimes before a crowd of people who would verbally and physically abuse the victim until he or she confessed. Struggle sessions were often held at the workplace of the accused, but were sometimes conducted in sports stadiums where large crowds would gather if the target was famous enough.[1]

During Mao's leadership, the Chinese people attended many different types of struggle sessions, sometimes consisting of 100,000 people. During the 1950s when Mao's Government began the Land Reform movement, poorer peasants seized the land from their landlords, who were given the title of exploiting class (simplified Chinese: 剥削阶级; traditional Chinese: 剝削階級; pinyin: bōxuē jiējí), and an estimated 2 million landlords were swiftly executed after being subjected to a struggle session.


According to Lin Yu-tang, the expression comes from "批判" (pinyin: pīpàn; literally: "to judge") and "鬥爭" (pinyin: dòuzhēng; literally: "to fight"), so the whole expression conveys the message of inciting the spirit of judgment and fighting. Instead of saying the full phrase "批判鬥爭" (pinyin: pīpàn dòuzhēng), it was shortened to "批鬥" (pinyin: pīdòu).

Origins and purpose

Chinese officials Yu Ping and Gu Zhuoxin are branded capitalist roaders and subjected to humiliation by Red Guards.

Struggle sessions developed from similar ideas of criticism and self-criticism in the Soviet Union from the 1920s. The term refers to class struggle; ostensibly, the session is held to benefit the target, by eliminating all traces of counterrevolutionary, reactionary thinking. Chinese Communists resisted this at first, because struggle sessions conflicted with the Chinese concept of saving face, but struggle sessions became commonplace at Communist Party meetings during the 1930s due to public popularity.[2]

Accounts of struggle sessions

Lately, the term "struggle session" has come to be applied to any scene where victims are publicly badgered to confess imaginary crimes under the pretext of self-criticism and rehabilitation.

Victims of struggle sessions

Ever since the Communist notion of class enemies (simplified Chinese: 阶级敌人; traditional Chinese: 階級敵人; pinyin: jiējí dírén) was introduced into China, terminologies such as Capitalist roader, Counter-revolutionary, and running dog of the imperialist petty bourgeoisie were a part of the public discourse of revolution, acts of vigilante justice enacted by citizens and, for at least the first few years, including the peoples army. Mao then turned these weapons on his own comrades as leaders began to regret the loss of law and order that seemed to be destroying their previous way of life.[5]

Disuse after 1978

Struggle sessions were disowned in China after 1978, when the reformers led by Deng Xiaoping took power. Deng Xiaoping prohibited struggle sessions and other kinds of Mao-era violent political campaigns.

In September 2013, Xi Jinping has taken his "criticism and self-criticism" campaign on the road, attending a series of meetings where Hebei provincial cadres were made to admit shortcomings and offer ideas for correcting their behaviour. Xi has instructed regional officials to "promote self-criticism and criticism" to implement his "mass line" campaign, which he said is necessary to eliminate formality, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance among rank-and-file cadres.

See also


  1. ^ Lipman, Jonathan Neaman; Harrell, Stevan (1990). Violence in China: Essays in Culture and Counterculture. SUNY Press. pp. 154–157. 
  2. ^ Priestland, David (2009). The Red Flag: A History of Communism.  
  3. ^ "A Catholic Voice Out of Communist China - November 1998 Mindszenty Report". 2008-03-13. Archived from the original on 2008-03-13. Retrieved 2011-03-07. 
  4. ^ "Enemies of the People". Retrieved 2011-03-07. 
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