“Yanan Zheng Feng” or “Cheng Feng’’’ more commonly known as the “Rectification”, was a mass movement initiated by Mao Zedong in the 1940’s with deep influence in modern history of China. It was the cornerstone of the establishment of Mao as supreme leader of the Chinese Communist Party. Also, its deep influences in Chinese history and politics seem to be long lasting and ubiquitous. However, as the process of this movement was full of conspiracies, lies and persecutions, the whole picture of it has never been disclosed to the outside world until Professor Gao Hua published his masterpiece How the Red Sun Rose in 2000.
==Orthodox Interpretation from CCP==
According to the orthodox interpretation of the Chinese Communist Party,the purpose of the program was to give a basic grounding in Marxist theory, and Leninism principles of political party organization, to the thousands of new members who had joined the CCP during its expansion since 1937. A second, equally important aspect of the movement was the elimination of what Mao called “dogmatism” (essentially, blind imitation of Soviet experience and obedience to Soviet directives and the Comintern as well) and “empiricism”
The movement consisted in three phases. From May 1941 to Feb 1942 ,it was the preparation phase. With the lecture Rebuild Our Study given by Mao in the senior CCP leaders’ meeting in 1941, Zheng Feng was officially launched. In July and Aug of the same year the CCP issued the decisions on Research and Analysis, Improvement of Party Membership. The leading team for Zheng Feng was set up, with Mao as director and Wang Jiaxiang deputy director, to organize senior leaders in Yanan to study Marxism and Leninism.From Feb 1942 to Oct 1943, it was the Zheng Feng in whole party phase. Mao gave lecture Improving the Working Style of Party in the opening ceremony of the Central Party School and then gave lecture Against Party Stereotype-Writing in the cadre party of Yanan in Feb 1942, interpreting the aim and policy of Zheng Feng in full detail. The General Studying Committee was set up to lead this movement. From Oct 1943 to Apr 1945 ,it was the summing phase. Senior leaders restudied party history and reached agreements on major issues. With the issuance of Resolutions on Some Historical Events of the CCP in 7th Plenary Meeting of 6th National Congress of CCP in 1945, Zheng Feng was concluded.
==New Findings ==
However, with more and more research work done by both Chinese and foreign historians, especially the convincing interpretation of professor Gao Hua and his work How The Red Sun Rose:The Origin and Development of the Yan’an Rectification Movement ,1930–1945 , there is another story about the truth of this movement. According to the new findings, this movement was initiated by Mao just to ensure his status as paramount leader or dictator of the CCP in fact. In detail, although Mao took charge of the leadership of the CCP after the Zunyi Conference, he was not in a dominated position as later described in the textbooks. Even when he won the power struggle with Zhang Guotao, he was still one of the senior leaders such as Zhou Enlai, Wang Mingand Zhang Wentian. Furthermore, his contribution to the revolution in rural area and status as senior leader had been doubted by the CCP center used to survive in major cities and under the leadership of workers and worker activists such as Xiang Zhongfa, Zhang Guotao,Li Lisan; and intellectuals such as Zhou Enlai, Qu Qiubai and 28 Bolsheviks. At the same time, unlike Wang Ming, Mao was still unrecognizable in Comintern.
After the Zunyi Conference, Mao was elected as one of the three-men military command team along with Zhou Enlai and Wang Jiaxiang, which paved his way to power. Mao used political tricks to take the daily run of military command from Zhou and Wang, who were the other two members of three-men team. With supports from his old subordinates in the year of Jiangxi, such as Lin Biao and Peng Dehuai, Mao succeeded in keeping Wang, who had spent most of years studied abroad and had no power base in military at all; and Zhou , who had big health problem in the late period of the Long March and had no energy for military command, from handling military any more. Moreover, as the General Secretary of the CCP at that time, Zhang Wentian was the nominal supreme leader of the CCP, but he was an intellectual rather than a revolutionist. He had little ambition for power. Thus Mao exploited Zhang’s modesty and took control of the daily run of the CCP center step by step. Especially when the Long March ended with Mao leading the Red Army reached Yanan, he was the paramount leader in some degree. At the same time, Liu Shaoqi, who was head of Northern China Division of the CCP, aroused a big argument by claiming the incorrectness of past political routes, which was consonant with Mao’s thought and future plan. Furthermore, Mao found a reliable associate for his future movement.
During the later years, Mao used his talents and skills in power struggle to consolidate his power base and break up the alliance of his opponents such as Zhang Guotao, 28 Bolsheviks one by one. In the 6th Plenum Meeting of 6th National Congress of the CCP held in 1938, Mao’s status as the paramount leader both in party and military was legalized in some degrees. In order to strengthen his power, Mao carried out series of reform and reshuffle of the CCP political routes, organs, among which with the leader and mastermind of 28 Bolsheviks, Wang Ming came back from Moscow, Mao faced a serious challenge. But with support from Liu and his associates such as Peng Zhen, Bo Yibo;Mao won the power struggle again by using dirty tricks and successfully breaking up Wang’ alliance with Zhou and other senior leaders. In 1941 in the Extending Meeting of the Politburo,Mao won a overwhelming victory over his arch-rival Wang. Now it was time for put this achievements into record.
After many years preparation, the curtain of Zheng Feng was lifted. The show went on. Zheng Feng was officially launched in 1942. Liu was called back to Yanan from his leadership of the New 4th Army for assistance .Mao firstly blamed the past political routes since the 4th Plenum Meeting of 6th National Congress of the CCP, because at that time the 28 Bolsheviks began to took control of the CCP with the help from the Comintern and they disagreed with Mao’s policy of revolution in rural areas first. To make a clear distinction from past was the best way to show the correctness and greatness of Mao’s political routes at current stage. Then Mao labeled his comrades as supporters of wrong routes so as to make himself superior to them both politically and mentally. This was not only a warning but also a deterrence to these CCP leaders, which mean only Mao was political correct and he decided the political fate of these leaders. When Mao labeled the past political route as totally wrong, those leaders who followed the past political route but actually were Mao’s rivals or potential rivals were categorized into two groups. One group was labeled as “dogmatism”, the members including Wang Ming, and his fellows of 28 Bolsheviks, and those who studied abroad and were deeply influenced by foreign theories, inclusive of Liu Bocheng, Zuo Quan, Zhu Rui and other prominent leaders. The other group was labeled as “empiricism”, the member including Zhou Enlai, Ren Bishi, Peng Dehuai, Chen Yi, Li Weihan, Dengfa and other senior leaders who had close relation with or supported Wang Ming. Mao forced these leaders to criticize each other and self-criticize in rounds of meeting. Everyone of them should write reports of confession and apology for their mistakes. These dirty materials became secret weapons of Mao for his later persecution of these old comrades. Secondly, Mao despised the imported theory of orthodox Marxism and Leninism, replacing with his pragmatism. He branded these theories and their advocates as dogmatism and dogmatist, under which Chinese revolution suffered great loss. The true reason for this betrayal of orthodox Marxism and Leninism might be Mao would prefer his thoughts instead of any other theories be the guideline of the CCP and he would release rage against the Comintern and Stalin’s doubt on his legitimacy of being paramount leader of the CCP by this way. Mao’s thoughts and articles was to be regarded as guidelines of the whole party without any challenge or doubt. Thirdly, Mao set up the Central General Study Committee to be in charge of the movement, which consist of his close ally Kang Sheng, Li Fuchun, Peng Zhen, Gao Gang and later inclusive of Liu Shaoqi. This temporary organ replaced the politburo and secretariat which ran daily operation of the CCP leadership, was turned into the most powerful organ of the CCP at that time. Under this arrangement, temporary organ without any restricts on power could better facilitate Mao’s authoritarian style than those regular organs established by election and with terms. Moreover, the regular collective decision-making system of theCCP center was abandoned, and Mao turned Yanan into his own empire and the dictatorship of Mao was shaped and in practice. And this was just the beginning, Mao used this trick from time to time when he thought the party organs or other organs were obstacles to his dictatorship he would use this tactic without any hesitation. The best example was the Cultural Revolution he launched and the Central Cultural Revolution Group he created decades later.
As the movement went on among senior leaders, it extended to the fields under the leadership or influenced by those dogmatists and empiricists. Among which were the propaganda and culture societies used to be in charge by Zhang Wentian ,Bo Gu and their “dogmatism” camp. When Mao sent his favorite Lu Dingyi to carry out Zheng Feng in these organs, he urged the staffs of these organs to criticize the bureaucracy and hierarchy of the CCP, but actually Mao would like them criticize those senior leaders of dogmatism and found out who were dissatisfied with the CCP rule in face . Some of the members rose to the bait and thought Mao would accept criticism in deed, they spoke out their true feeling of anger over hierarchy and inequality in Yanan , among which the most famous criticism came from Wang Shiwei,a freelancer who was advocate of democracy and science. His essay denounced the true face of hierarchy and bureaucracy in Yanan in a frank way, which irritated Mao greatly. When Mao used this way to induce those dissidents to express their feelings of dissatisfaction, the next step was revenge and suppression(which was called by Mao as Open Tactic instead of Conspiracy, and used by Mao in the Anti-Rightists Movement in 1950’s). Being labeled as Trotskyist Wang was arrested by the Central Social Department, which was a copycat of notorious Soviet Union OGPU in charge of purge ,and was led by Kang ,close ally of Mao. Wang later was executed in 1947 during the CCP retreated from Yanan when General Hu Zongnan led his KMT armies occupied the red capital. Wang only got rehabilitation in the late 1980's.
At the same time, under the leadership of Peng Zhen, the Central Political School of the CCP began to carry out Zheng Feng among its students. Mass of the party members were forced to write reports of confession and self-criticism. Then the Central General Study Committee ordered people to report their daily lives and speeches. When the daily lives and speeches were involved, the movement turned to mass party member censorship and purge naturally. This stage was known as Salvation Stage. This stage was the extension of anti-Trotskyists movement and censorship of those new-comers from the areas governed by the Kuomintang. The Central Social Department took control of the movement and turned into mass persecution both mentally and bodily in 1943.
Kang Sheng, Peng Zhen and Li kenong would never waste this precious opportunity to show off their power and hysteric on power struggle. Under these KGB guys direction, this movement had been changed into a show of Salem Witch. Thousands of people especially those new members who came from areas governed by the KMT were purged, kept in custody, censored from time to time, tortured from both mental and body, even executed. Many of them were labeled as “spy of Kuomintang” or “anti party activists”. Not only themselves were humiliated, but also their family members involved and relatives too. The only way for them to be released from this persecution was to make confession of the crimes they never committed and then turn others in.
Yanan was covered by darkness and fear. The victims were so mass that even the senior leaders such as Tao Zhu (‘’’陶铸’’’ in Chinese， who became the No 4 figure of CCP in the Cultural Revolution later)and Ke Qingshi (‘’’柯庆施’’’ in Chinese who later was the party secretary of the CCP Shanghai Division and almost replaced Zhou Enlai as the Premier of the PRC, had he not died in a heart attack in the early of 1960’s) were kept in custody and tortured by Kang’s pawns. Except for Mao and his close ally, everyone was under great stress. The fury and dissatisfaction piled at the same time. Senior leaders such as Zhou and Ren Bishi, even Gao Gang, close ally of Mao, expressed their concern and disagreement of this movement to Mao. Furthermore, when Stalin knew this mass purge in Yanan, he worried about this could wreak havoc on the anti-Japanese United Front set up by the KMT and CCP after the Xian Incident, which would put China in danger and Soviet Union would be hurt too if China lost the anti-Japanese war. On Dec 22nd 1943 Stalin sent his message by a telegram sent to Mao from Georgi Dimitrov,who used to be head of Comintern and lived in Moscow after the dissolution of Comintern in May 1943 . In this telegram, Dimitrov expressed his concern and worry over the purge, and pointed out this would cause great damage to the CCP and would isolate the CCP from people although he mentioned the movement was provoked by the KMT’s plot. Mao did fully understand the weight of this criticism. As the Red Army won the Battle of Stalingrad, the situation turned favorable to the Soviet Union. Mao knew his future still need supports and aids from Moscow, thus he could not turn his back upon this telegram.
As a result, in the Central Secretariat Meeting of the CCP of the same day, when discussing the report on anti-spy given by Kang, Ren Bishi said that the opinion of labeling most of the intellectuals as spies was wrong, most of which were good party members instead and now it was time the party discriminate those members and carry out rehabilitation. Mao made use of this opportunity to give brake to Salvation Stage and turn it into Discrimination Stage.
The process of discrimination of 15,000 members labeled as spies were slow and inefficient, because Mao and his allies were reluctant to admit their abusing of power and being hysteric. Mao only showed slight degree of apology by taking off his cap for several times during public meetings and said some words such as this movement had gone a little too far. Kang did not show any repentance. Only when the Chinese Civil War broke out in 1945, did the process of discrimination speed up for the CCP in great need of party members and cadres to fight against the KMT.
The opening of the 7th Plenary Meeting of 6th National Congress of the CCP in 1945 was the conclusion of Zheng Feng, in which Resolutions on Some Historical Events of the CCP was issued. In these resolutions, Mao labeled the past political routes of the CCP as totally wrong, and he reshuffled the central organs of the CCP, the core of leadership-Presidium and then Central Secretariat of the CCP after the 7th National Congress of the CCP consisted of Mao, Liu Shaoqi, who was promoted to No 2 for his great support in this movement. After the brainwash, senior leaders and members of the CCP had to accept Mao’s thoughts and articles as their guideline and there should be no doubt or violation. In the following 7th National Congress of the CCP, under the proposal of Liu , Mao’s thought was labeled as Maoism and put into the Party Constitution. As a result, Mao’s articles was regarded as Holy Bible of the CCP and Mao did turn the CCP into his personal cult. Mao was regarded as the paramount leader whose authority could be challenged by nobody in the 7ht National Congress of the CCP, and in this congress the last nail for the coffin of symbolic collective decision-making system of the CCP was clinched. And the Cultural Revolution was destiny. Wang Ming ,Zhang Wentian and Bo Gu as the representative of dogmatists , Zhou Enlai as representative of empiricist had to make self-criticism and apology in the meeting. Wang, and Bo were removed from politburo.They were replaced by Mao’s close ally Gao Gang, Kang, Lu Dingyi . Liu also got reward for his associates Peng Zhen and Bo Yibo’s promotion too, which did found a clique in the CCP and make great challenge to Mao’s power after the establishment of the PRC, and force Mao to launch the Cultural Revolution to eliminate its influence.
Zheng Feng was the first political movement involving all members of the CCP, consisting of the power struggle of senior leaders and reshuffle of party organs, rectification of thoughts of party members, censor of party members and purge, establishment of new institutions. In this movement, Mao used the measure of rectification of thoughts, censor and purge, to give the democracy and liberty traditions, which were originated from the May Fourth Movement and respect of the Soviet Union, a deadly strike in the CCP, and build infrastructure of domination of the CCP by Maoism. The political tricks ,mass movements were repeatedly used in the late movement such as Anti-Rightists, the Cultural Revolution. Although the cruel mass censor and purge have been abolished in the CCP, the way of rectification of thoughts , system of report of confession and apology are still in popular use in the late Three- Talk, Three-Representative Movement launched by Jiang Zemin, Keeping the Advantages of CCP Members Movement launched by Hu Jintao. Notwithstanding these measures have lost their deterrent in a diminishing marginal utility way, Xi Jinping picked up Mao’s old weapon and intended to exploit it to the fullest extent by rounds of political movements within the Party in recent years.
In a speech to Party members in Yanan on February 1942, Mao said that such dogmatists must be told: “ ‘’’Your dogma is of no use,’ or to use an impolite phrase, ‘Your dogma is less useful than excrement.’ We see that dog excrement can fertilize the fields, and man’s can feed the dog. And Dogmas? They can’t fertilize the fields, nor can they feed a dog. Of what use are they?”’’ Actually Mao was blaming the influence of Marxism and Leninism and showing his despise for intellectual. If that is the case, how about Maoism or Xiism when they both become dogmas?