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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: May 2021

3 - The 1940s

from Chapter 3 – 1940s


Chapter 3 focuses on the 1942 rectification campaign against Wang Shiwei and other Yan’an intellectuals who had emerged from the Shanghai literary world of the 1930s. Mao sought to eradicate the “three evil workstyles” of subjectivism (favouring Wang Ming’s Russian Marxism over Mao Zedong’s local expertise), sectarianism (not doing what the leadership tells you to do), and stereotyped, overly dogmatic, Party writing. Historical, political, and geographic context for the campaign is provided, with particular attention payed to the position of Mao vis-à-vis the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Wang Shiwei was a Communist theorist who took exception to Mao’s version of rectification and offered an alternative Marxist model that shows the influence of Leon Trotsky. Rhetorical goals and strategies in Mao’s speeches are shown to highlight the importance of intellectual self-transformation, the better to create willing and effective mouthpieces for the CCP, which are contrasted with the agenda of revolutionary artists, such as Ding Ling and Xiao Jun, providing context for Wang’s essay collection Wild Lilies. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the campaign against Wang and his “Trotskyite” supporters in the Rescue Campaign which ensued, implicating thousands of politically suspect cadres, and leading to Wang’s arrest and accidental execution in 1947.