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, so-called 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.
During Mao's rule, the Chinese people were forced to attend many different types of struggle sessions, sometimes consisting of 100,000 people. During the 1950s when the CCP began the Land Reform movement, poorer peasants seized the land from their landlords, who were given the title of exploiting class ( ), 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 [pi1pan4], meaning "to judge", and , meaning "to fight"; so the whole expression conveys the message of inciting the spirit of judgment and fighting. Instead of saying the full phrase :pi pan dou zhen, it was shortened to :pi dou.
Origins and purpose
Two Chinese citizens are branded capitalist roaders and subjected to public torture and humiliation by citizens.
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.
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 ( ) 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, never the army. Millions of ordinary Chinese were executed under these accusations. Mao Zedong 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.
Famous revolutionaries like Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping, Zhu De, Wang Yaowu, Peng Dehuai and many more, had been subjected to repeated struggle sessions, and many of them died in prison. However, individuals like Panchen Lama after long years of public questioning, absent of torture, and imprisonment, later rejoin the Communist Party.
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.
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