Struggle sessions evolved from ideals of criticism and more
importantly self-criticism popular amongst Russian communists in
the 1920’s. Chinese communists were slow to take up struggle
sessions as they conflicted with the more traditional Chinese ideal of
“saving face”. Later during the Land Reform Campaign! struggle
sessions took off as the people needed to demonise and get angry at
the people they were taking land from. Peasants were encouraged to
accuse land owners of all sorts of crimes and call them all sorts of
names in struggle sessions promoted as “speak bitterness “sessions
and “give utterance to grief “sessions.
Struggle sessions and then denunciation rallies filled the gap
otherwise filled by the news and then social media. People were at
first bonded by the spectacle of someone else being humiliated in a
public setting and then protected by their ability to name some else
to be humiliated, defamed and beaten – in a public setting.
Constantly accusing was the best form of protection against being

The process of avoiding being accused started with writing
accusations about people in your town, that you barely knew, on big
poster paper and pasting it on public buildings or hanging them from
the loud speakers that screamed party slogans from street corners.
With the support of other like-minded people, you then organise a
struggle session where you could be seen accusing your target
person of the impossibility of not avoiding one category of the
impossible to remember-never ending list – of anti-party behaviours.
One of the few powers available to the peasants was the most
powerful – the power to transform through judgement. Struggle
sessions gave the peasants the chance to turn a rich landlord into a
“capitalist roader”, “class enemy “or “counter revolutionary”. A
persecuting government official could be transformed into “a
rightist”, “a western spy” or even a “Krushchev”. Most seductively
you could turn a stranger into someone of whom you know
everything important there is to know.

Committed judgement doesn’t end at a funeral. In order to feel
comfortable in the present it is important to judge and then label the
past. This sets the past in place and stops it from coming up from
behind contradicting your present. We have to re-label past
relationships and de-friend them on facebook and so the natural
logic of the struggle session was to transform the people of the past
through judgement to stop them humiliating and contradicting the
people of the present.


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