The Politics of Persuasion:
Communist Rhetoric and the Revolution


Patricia Stranahan
Texas A&M University

Introduction

One of the essential ingredients of the Chinese Communist party's (CCP) revolution in China was propaganda. Convincing people of the rightness of the cause, bringing them into the fold, and forging programs of acceptance were all impossible without propaganda. To Communist leaders, propaganda was more than the promotion of certain ideologies particular to their interests. It was a means to educate and mobilize a mass of people in the real or perceived benefits of Party programs. The constant state of crisis, first with Guomindang (GMD) and foreign suppression, then with the Japanese invasion, and finally with the civil war, made it doubly important not only for cadres to know and understand the goals of the Party but also for the masses to understand them. "Once the masses know the truth and have a common aim," said Mao Zedong, "they will work together with one heart."(1)

In our world, the term "propaganda" has negative connotations, but in the Chinese context, the term xuanchuan means more to publicize or make known than to manipulate for a specific purpose. The importance to the CCP hierarchy of "making known" its policies cannot be overestimated. It was so important, in fact, that all levels of Party hierarchy from the Standing Committee down to the district committees and branches had their own propaganda committees.

Propaganda can be conveyed in many ways, but in the world of the CCP between 1927 and 1949--a world of illiterate peasants and workers; a world where constant danger made mobility vital; and a world where such things as printing presses, ink and paper were luxuries--it was essential to deliver the message in the simplest, most direct way possible. That meant devising an understandable and appropriate message that could be related verbally, or through slogans and stories. Language became the critical tool cadres used to disseminate information to the masses. Nevertheless, the words themselves were not as important as the way in which they were made understandable and appropriate to the targeted group.

Much of the Keywords Project to date has focused upon revolutionary words. This paper diverges from that framework to examine how Party leaders assembled the words of revolution into a language that they hoped would lead to the desired result when transmitted to the appropriate audience. I plan to do this through case studies of: 1) the labor movement in Shanghai during the late 1920s and early 1930s, 2) the National Salvation movement in Shanghai during the mid-to-late 1930s, and 3) the women's movement in the Shaan-Gan-Ning Border Region between 1937 and 1945. These three periods were chosen because they represent different audiences and different responses.

The Party's attempt to win the support of Shanghai's working class during the late 1920s and early 1930s failed miserably. On the other hand, the Party was quite successful in harnessing the anti-Japanese sentiments of the patriotic elites who joined the National Salvation movement. Finally, the Party at first failed and then, after making its message more appropriate to the targeted audience, succeeded in rallying the peasant women of the Shaan-Gan-Ning Border Region to their cause. Through these studies, I hope to shed light on two questions: 1) What kind of revolutionary language worked? and 2) Why did it work when it worked?

The Shanghai Labor Movement, 1927-1931

The period between 12 April 1927, when Shanghai gangsters joined with Chiang Kai-shek to destroy the city's labor movement and crush the Communist Party, and January 1933, when the last of the Central Committee fled Shanghai for the safety of Mao's rural stronghold in Jiangxi Province, was one of severe setbacks in the Party's labor-organizing efforts. At the time of the 12 April coup, there were, in Shanghai, 800,000 members of trade unions influenced by the CCP. In contrast, Party-sponsored Red unions had only 600 members in 1934.(2) Nevertheless, despite the kind of decimation it produced, organizing the working class to lead a proletarian revolution remained the backbone of CCP policy throughout the period.

Having destroyed the CCP's Shanghai Federation of Trade Unions (Shanghai zonggonghui) in the spring of 1927, the GMD government in Nanjing set about reorganizing Shanghai's labor movement into a network of unions with allegiance to it and not to labor.(3) After forming several unsuccessful organizations, the GMD turned direction of the city's labor movement over to its People's Discipline Committee and the newly created Bureau of Social Affairs of the Shanghai Municipal Government. The legislation coming out of these two groups, although revealing a more positive attitude towards labor by the GMD, still failed to better the lot of working people.

Into the void stepped gangster chief Du Yuesheng. Du chose "yellow unions" as his instrument for controlling Shanghai labor. These were government-approved, gang-operated unions which, despite their dubious connections, did succeed in obtaining some concrete benefits for workers.

The labor-organizing activities of the GMD and Shanghai's gangsters did little to improve the already bleak state of CCP organizing in the city. After 12 April, what was left of the Shanghai Federation of Trade Unions went underground.(4) When the Central Committee established the Jiangsu Provincial Committee in June 1927 to direct Party affairs in Shanghai and surrounding areas, it considered labor organizing as its most important work. A statement issued at its 7 August Emergency Meeting said, "The labor movement is the basic activity of the Party."(5)

This was the time in Party history when leaders foresaw workers uniting with peasants to overthrow repressive GMD rule and exploitive capitalists. They predicted small economic struggles would become great economic struggles, and great economic struggles would become massive armed uprisings. On 30 April 1928, the Central Committee called for cadres to lead the economic struggle against the conditions of workers' daily lives using propaganda and agitation to lift workers' political consciousness. In May and August, the Jiangsu Provincial Committee issued resolutions instructing cadres to merge workers' economic struggles with the anti-imperialist, anti-GMD movement. It called for expanding workers' organizations and "united fronts" among various groups, broadening workers' organizations, and strengthening labor leadership. Red self-defense forces were to be established.

None of these lofty goals came to pass. Instead of focusing upon economic struggles and the consolidation of the movement, labor organizers followed the Party line and mobilized workers to participate in anti-warlord struggles, anti-imperialist rallies, and demonstrations calling for military aid for the U.S.S.R.

The typical language used in propaganda to unite Shanghai workers in 1928 is illustrated in a statement published in commemoration of 1 May:

Workers and Peasants! Since the GMD has completely changed to become the party of the warlord and capitalist class, workers/peasants/soldiers must immediately rise up, [carry out] armed insurrection, strive for political rights, and organize for the period of the worker/peasant/soldier soviet. Workers! Peasants! [Recognize] the new revolutionary spirit!(6)

Herein lies the reason for the failure of CCP labor organizing in the late 1920s. Workers wanted higher wages, shorter hours, and less abuse, and they wanted help in achieving those demands. To a certain extent, they got that help from "yellow" and GMD unions. From the CCP, they got calls to rise up in arms, to "strive for political rights," and to "organize soviets." These were ideas far too ideological and political for the average worker concerned with the struggles of daily existence.

That kind of language never changed even in cases where there were blatant wrongs being done to Chinese workers and concrete incidents around which workers could rally. Take the case of the death of a Chinese employee of the French Tramway Company. On a rainy September night in 1928, French marines murdered a company driver named Wu Tonggen. This set off a twenty-four-day strike by Chinese workers. French authorities offered monetary compensation for the death, which the GMD accepted. The CCP immediately capitalized on the incident arguing that it was not a matter of the death of one individual, but a matter of oppression and the violation of workers' rights.

If the Party had manufactured this incident, it could not have done a better job. Here was the death of a Chinese worker at the hands of imperialists all brushed under the rug for a few dollars by the repressive GMD. Here was the opportunity to rally Chinese angered by the death to demand improvements in working conditions, wages and rights. But the Party failed to see the value of the moment. This is best evidenced by the list of slogans the Jiangsu Provincial Committee issued for use at rallies to protest the death: "Strike down the French imperialists who murdered a Chinese worker," "Strike down the Japanese imperialists who murder Chinese," "Strike down all imperialists," "Take back the foreign concessions," "Strike down the GMD who abolished the mass movement," and (the only one that probably made sense to the workers) "Institute an eight-hour workday."(7)

Even after Wang Ming and the Internationalists took control of the Party at the Fourth Plenum (January 1931), the language of propaganda changed very little. They continued the policy of opposing imperialism and the GMD, but implemented it through highly visible means such as strikes and demonstrations. Because the Internationalists believed that the Revolution was at high tide, they argued that every struggle possessed the germ of a mass uprising. Cadres were ordered to mobilize the masses for demonstrations and strikes which exposed everyone, including themselves, to extreme danger and resulted in disaffection among the working class. As a result, the Shanghai Communist party was segregated even further from they group they sought to champion.

The Internationalists had not learned the lessons of the late 1920s. Instead of understanding the need to address concrete problems and provide practical solutions, they persisted in conveying ideological propaganda with language such as: "The Revolution menaces the Capitalists who suck the blood of the workmen," "The National Government is a `chest of filth'," "Let laborers be armed and overthrow all Imperialists under the leadership of the revolutionary war," "Support the motherland of the proletariat--Soviet Russia--and oppose the attack upon Soviet Russia, and a second world war," "Oppose the contracting of foreign loans and the partition of China by imperialists," and "Oppose Christianity and Fascism."(8)

This kind of language meant nothing to workers who were being exploited by capitalists, who had seen their city bombed by the Japanese in January 1932, and who were feeling the effects of the world depression. Even when the Party sought to talk to workers about issues that directly affected them, it failed. Take for example, a widely distributed handbill titled "Letter to Shanghai Juvenile Unemployed Workers in Connection with the International Unemployment Movement Day, February 25" which read in part:

The traitorous [Guomindang] Government has become the loyal running dog of the Imperialists and is spending billions of dollars in the attack on the Red Army of [laborers] and peasants. The [Guomindang] is not relieving our unemployed workers with a single cash, nevertheless it is cruelly oppressing us, destroying our unity, arresting our leaders and hoping that we die of starvation.(9)

The CCP was never strong enough to compete with the GMD or Shanghai's gangster elements to control the city's labor movement. Even if it had been, however, it could not have been successful unless it changed its language from the ideological to the practical. This is exactly what it did in the case of the National Salvation movement, and that is our second case study.

The National Salvation Movement

During the National Salvation Movement of the mid-1930s, the Communist party in Shanghai forged a highly successful alliance with patriotic progressives from the city's middle and upper classes. Many among these classes were bitter at Chiang Kai-shek's anti-capitalist financial and political policies and angry at his lack of response to Japan's aggressive actions in North China. In the mid-1930s, they were ripe for an alliance with any group ready to resist the hated Japanese. The city's Party organization was just such a group. It seized the opportunity by joining with progressives to form National Salvation associations in late 1934 and early 1935.(10) Their joint efforts convinced many that the CCP was the only force in China strong enough to end the political chaos that had disrupted the country for decades.

Why the change in Party policy? By 1933, the situation in Shanghai had become so dangerous that the CCP's Central Committee could no longer stay in the city. Therefore, it retreated to the Jiangxi Soviet where it began a sixteen-year stay in China's hinterlands. Cut off from direct communication with its superiors in Jiangxi and, then, from any kind of communication during the Long March (autumn 1934-autumn 1935), the Shanghai Party depended upon what it knew of Comintern policy for guidance.(11) At this time, the Comintern was calling for anti-Japanese united fronts among patriotic peoples of all classes, a policy not endorsed by the CCP's Central Committee until the summer of 1936.(12)

Multi-class, anti-Japanese alliances were also a logical step given the political realities of Shanghai. Active labor organizing had simply become too dangerous with one police crackdown after another. This all-too-evident danger caused Shanghai Party leaders to pull their remaining operatives out of factories in 1932. Concerned with protecting what remained of the Party organization, the leadership turned its attention to anti-Japanese activities.

Shanghai citizens had reacted angrily to the Japanese takeover of Manchuria in 1931-32, the subsequent bombing of Shanghai in January 1932, and the lack of GMD response. The anti-Japanese, anti-GMD protests sweeping the city at that time made patriotic mobilization a more promising target for Party organizing than labor. Leaders of the Shanghai Party realized this and, taking advantage of the situation, established a foothold among the city's ever-growing number of patriotic organizations.

The decision to concentrate on the danger at hand is evident in the language of handbills confiscated by Shanghai Municipal Police in 1934. While many handbills continued to be anti-GMD with slogans such as "Do not pay any revenue to the Guomindang" or "Rob the granaries of the rich and intensify guerilla warfare," many were clearly anti-Japanese and much less virulent in nature: "Render assistance to the anti-Japanese Volunteers in the Northeast" or "Surround the soldiers of the White Army and urge them not to fight against the Red Army."(13)

At first the Party concentrated on a "united front from below" (in conjunction with the policy of the Comintern's Twelfth Plenum) and began to work through the Eight Big Leagues. These were periphery, or fellow-traveler, mass-oriented organizations whose goal was the overthrow of the GMD. Crippling raids by authorities in 1935 effectively put a halt to public demonstrations, the most popular form of League activity, and in September the Eight Big Leagues disbanded.

Given its history and the political realities of China at that time, it is understandable that the Shanghai Party allied itself with the anti-Japanese elite.(14) Comintern policy, as the local Party organization understood it, encouraged Party members to join the growing number of middle- and upper-class organizations in educational and cultural circles and in the professional world that were turning themselves into National Salvation associations.(15)

Because the majority of association members were non-Party activists from the upper echelons of society, these groups differed from the Eight Big Leagues. Keeping their Party membership secret, cadres worked within these groups, not with the intent of controlling them as the GMD charged, but to stimulate anti-Japanese fervor among Shanghai's citizens.(16) Patriotic peoples of all classes became the Party's allies in the fight against Japan.

Despite efforts by the GMD and Western authorities to crush the movement, it grew rapidly, particularly after the Japanese occupied the Chinese-controlled sections of Shanghai in the fall of 1937. Through demonstrations, performances and boycotts, National Salvation associations rallied Shanghai citizens to oppose the occupier.

Language used in Party propaganda at this time was vastly different from that of the labor movement in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The enemy was concrete--an evil force against whom all people could rally. Reason and patriotism replaced violent words and harsh invectives as ideological propaganda gave way to a practical message of anti-Japanese resistance. This is well illustrated in two handbills distributed by the National Salvation Dramatic Group:

Dear Brethren in Shanghai,

The nation has undergone a change and the people in Shanghai ought to modify their attitude. Males must banish all frivolous thoughts from their minds and use their energy to the best advantage and not throw it away on enjoyment. Females must undo the waves of their hair, wash rouge and powder off their faces, take off their high heeled shoes and become Chinese citizens of that great nation of ours. If the hot blood of our brethren cannot reach your sympathy and the guns of the enemy cannot make you tense with excitement, then citizens as represented by you are useless and not more than corpses.



Dear Brethren,

The Japanese robbers not only kill people and occupy territory, but they also prohibit the Chinese from having anti-Japanese ideas. We in all sincerity tell her [Japan] that "Those who are superior in armaments can ruin the nation of others and enslave their people, but they cannot, no matter how hard they try, subdue those people nor their spirits.(17)

On the night of 9 July 1937, two days after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, municipal police arrested seven young people for singing National Salvation songs. The next day, police arrested another group of young people, members of the China Amateur Travelling Group, who along with children from a primary school, were singing the popular National Salvation songs, "New Life" and "Hot Blood." The lyrics to "Hot Blood" were:

Who wishes to be slaves? Who wishes to be horses and oxen?

Our hot blood is burning like a stream

For the sake of fraternity, equality and freedom

We shall not regret paying any price, even sacrificing our skulls

Our hot blood is like a stream of water

We shall not regret sacrificing our lives for the purpose of struggling for equality, fraternity and freedom.(18)

In October, shortly after the Japanese occupation of Shanghai, the National Salvation Youth Service Group mounted posters around Shanghai with the slogans: "Conduct the war of resistance to the bitter end," "Sever all relations with Japan," and "Let all those who are unwilling to become slaves unite together."(19)

Even though the city's Party organization had allied with National Salvation groups, it did not cease propaganda work on its own. In October 1938, the Jiangsu Provincial Committee, the governing body of the CCP in Shanghai, issued a handbill titled "A letter to the Brethren and Comrades in Shanghai in connection with the withdrawal of Chinese troops from the Wuhan Area" which reflected the Party's united front stance and stated in part:

Canton has fallen and Chinese troops have made a strategic withdrawal from the Wuhan Area. We should first of all pay our highest respects to Generalissimo Chiang and the Chinese soldiers for their bravery during the five months' bloody struggle in the defence of the Wuhan Area for the realization of our final victory. A bright future is in store for us. It is incumbent upon every Chinese to continue the war of resistance in order to crush the Japanese invaders.(20)

The Japanese occupation of Shanghai changed the rules of the game for the National Salvation movement. An occupied Shanghai was a very dangerous place; patriots could not move about as freely nor work as openly as they had for the past several years. Nor did the foreign-controlled areas of the city offer the safe havens they once had. In addition, for leaders of the Shanghai Communist party, there was a growing awareness that the National Salvation movement lacked organizational unity. This had not been a particularly troublesome issue before occupation, but it endangered operations afterwards.(21)

More importantly, perhaps, were events within the CCP itself. In the late 1930s, Mao Zedong was establishing his preeminence over rivals Zhang Guotao and Wang Ming. Consolidating his control over all Party organizations was important to Mao, and bringing the maverick Shanghai Party organization back into the fold was a top priority. To that end, Mao dispatched Liu Xiao to the city to take charge. Under a Maoist influence, class issues that had lain dormant in Shanghai during most of the 1930s reemerged, as policy shifted from national salvation to mass organizing (an activity Mao understood well). This did not mean a return to urban revolution but, rather, mass organizing for resistance against Japan in a rural-based revolution. Nevertheless, the bonds created between the Shanghai Party organization and many among the city's elite endured and allowed the Party to create a strong base of operations in the city by the war's end.

Women in the Shaan-Gan-Ning Border Region

Mao's struggle to take control of the CCP and the return to mass organizing form the core of our third case study: policy for women in the Shaan-Gan-Ning Border Region. The last of our studies is an illustration of change. Party leaders considered women a vast reservoir of support for the Revolution, because they were among those who could benefit the most from it. So, when the Central Committee set up its new government in this poverty-stricken and desolate area of Northwest China, women fifteen-years-old and older, like everyone else, were organized into groups whose chief function was to educate members politically and give them the skills they needed to advance the interests of the government.

During the United Front (1937-1941), equality for women was secondary to the resistance movement in the minds of policymakers. Rather than risk upsetting the fragile balance of social forces in the United Front by initiating an aggressive liberation movement, Party leaders exercised utmost caution in carrying out a policy to emancipate women. Officials told women that by contributing to the war effort, they could break away from the traditional system that had oppressed them for centuries. Unfortunately, the Party gave women little tangible advice on how to achieve social equality.

This lack of clarity is characteristic of policy throughout the United Front period. Concerned with the war and getting the area on its feet economically, Party leaders had not yet developed a well-defined policy to raise the status of women. One of the worst problems was that policymakers, who were primarily intellectuals and fresh from the more radical experience of the Jiangxi Soviet, did not know how to talk to these desperately poor, oppressed and illiterate women. As in the labor movement of the late 1920s, another period of uncertainty and ignorance of true conditions, the language was far too ideological for any kind of legitimacy from its audience.

Take for example a statement urging women to vote in the June 1941 elections:

"A woman is not a person" and other such derogatory statements, which have been in use for many generations, fully reveal the feudalistic oppression which women have received for several thousand years. They also reveal their minuscule position in society. In the whole country women are treated like donkeys, cows and horses. Before the Revolution, it was like this here in the Border Region.

Revolution, the beacon fire of the war of resistance, melts old statutes and customs. In reality, the Shaan-Gan-Ning Border Region gives women the right of democratic freedom.(22)

Lacking a clear-cut plan, cadres did not know what else to do except to allow women's groups to vent their anger at cruel family members. Sometimes the unleashing of pent-up fury took the form of divorce which cadres did not, at first, recognize as a potential threat to society. Rather, they saw divorce as an easy way for women to break their feudal bonds while, simultaneously, striking a blow at the traditional system. Because it touched all classes, moreover, cadres considered divorce a way to liberate women without disturbing the United Front goal of class harmony. Therefore, they allowed women to obtain divorces without first trying mediation--a process which later became mandatory.

This is shown in a "true" story cadres related to women:(23)

A child-bride, looking much older than her eleven years, wandered into the courtyard of the subdistrict government in Anding. When the cadre asked the girl what she wanted, she began to talk haltingly about her difficult life. She said that in her old home there were many mouths to feed, and life was not good. The year before, she had married; but she found life no better in her new home where, she said, the father was a "dragon." Although she watched the children, cooked the food, and cleaned the house, the family still beat and scolded her.

"Do you want a divorce?" the cadre asked.

"No," she replied. "I just want them to stop beating and cursing me. If they don't stop, then I want a divorce."

The story concludes with the cadre telling the girl to think the situation over and, if she wanted a divorce, to return the next day.(24)

Cadres, who understood neither this backward society nor women's roles in it, created more problems than they solved when they offered divorce as a means of liberation. Stimulating women's consciousness was important at this stage, but allowing them to disrupt the family unit was dangerous in an economy which remained family-oriented throughout the Yanan period. Moreover, there was no place in the Border Region socially or economically for the single woman. By not implementing a well-defined policy for women and following a moderate course in order to maintain social harmony, the Party's policy had created the potential for what it had wanted to avoid--social and economic upheaval.

In late 1941-1942, the CCP underwent a serious crisis in confidence which was manifested in the famous Party Rectification movement of 1942-1944. One manifestation of the crisis was the conclusion reached by Party leaders that the economic and social policies they had instituted in the Shaan-Gan-Ning Border Region were a failure. Policy changes were initiated in all areas; women were no exception.

The Central Committee revised its policy for women to one that avoided disrupting the family unit (i.e., the primary economic unit) by encouraging women to divorce. Instead, it asked women to remain within the family and undertook a program to give them tangible skills so that they could raise their status by becoming indispensable economic contributors to the family. The transformation of policy from the ideological to the practical worked, and women in the Shaan-Gan-Ning Border Region began to walk the long road to equality.

In a formal policy statement issued on 26 February 1943, the Central Committee called for women to achieve liberation through production, once a nebulous part of policy but now the keystone. Cadres were told to encourage women to work harmoniously within the family toward common economic goals.(25) The way was now clear; production and cooperation became the watchwords. Cadres knew exactly what they were to do and how they were to do it. Practical propaganda replaced ideological propaganda; "breaking feudal bonds" was rephrased as "raising one's status," and "seeking freedom through divorce" was rephrased as "seeking freedom through economic independence." Meetings to teach women skills that would allow them to make contributions to the family's income replaced meetings to vent ire at the inequities of the feudal family system. Certainly, the release of pent-up anger is an important part of any process of change, but officials in the Shaan-Gan-Ning Border Region had allowed it to go on for too long. It was time to make destruction, construction.

Stories about labor heroines--women who had made outstanding contributions to production--became the staple of the new message. There are numerous examples of these in Party publications, all imparting the same message: if you work hard, you will make money; if you add to the family's income, you will be treated better. One labor heroine Ren Yunni said, "Formerly the government was the yamen, but now it is the people. They gave me one hundred yuan. Should I buy food or clothes?"(26) An agricultural heroine was quoted as saying: "After the Revolution men and women are equal. In the home women aren't restrained by men and old people. They say I support myself! I don't have any advantages. . . . I made a profit of five or six thousand yuan from raising pigs and planting cotton."

The most widely written about labor heroine was Liu Guiying, a widow in her fifties who took part in production by spinning. In 1943, Liu began to organize women in Suide into spinning cooperatives, and in the first year, the women spun seventeen hundred jin of yarn. Pleased with the results, Liu was quoted as saying, "Everyone is making money. All women, old and young, have clothes, pocket money, melons, fodder, and they don't need men to give them money to buy things. Every household is happy!"(27)

In 1943, Liu went to the capital city of Yanan to attend the regionwide meeting honoring labor heroes and model workers held each year after the autumn harvest. Afterward, she related her experience to groups of peasant women:

I went to Yanan to attend the assembly, but I did things there that I had never done before. I even rode in a car! The Communist party cares about those of us who have suffered and advises us to eat well, wear warm clothes, and continue to advance. I saw Chairman Mao, and next year I am going to follow his words and work harder to organize women of all ages to spin and weave. I want to take what I saw and heard and return to spread the good word. I want to call upon all women to work to improve their lives!(28)

Even after policy was revised, problems remained in the policy for women, but as the language became more concrete so did the programs to raise the status of women. And, although they were still a long way from equality, more women than ever before came out to vote, to participate in educational and work programs, and to show their support of the government in various other ways.

Conclusion

We have now looked at three case studies of the ways the CCP used language to convey a desired message to a targeted audience. In some instances, those messages were favorably received by the audience; in some instances, they were not. From these examples, I believe we can draw a number of conclusions which allow us to better understand how revolutionary language was effectively--or ineffectively--used to win support for the Communist Revolution.

1) Propaganda worked best when an abstract cause was made specific. The cries of anti-warlordism, anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism were too abstract for the average worker; so, too, was freedom of divorce for the average peasant woman. Japanese aggression and subsequent occupation, however, was an issue everyone understood, as was the need to produce in order to survive. "Save the nation" or "The more you produce, the more money you will have" worked much more effectively than did "Down with imperialism."

2) The more ideological the language, the less likely it was to be accepted. Imploring people to assist soldiers fighting the Japanese or to unite or become slaves of the invader were clear messages, and they worked. Imploring illiterate peasant women to see the "beacon fires of the Revolution" and stand up for their democratic rights did not. Only when the audience understood what was being said to them would they accept the message.

3) The more confidence the Party had in its policy, the less ideological the message. In the late 1920s, the CCP was in upheaval because of the frequent policy changes made to conform to demands from Comintern leaders in Moscow who had little understanding of reality in China. Attempts to rally the working class were seen as futile by most of the rank-and-file. As Party leaders tried harder and harder to make unworkable policies work, the message became more ideological. On the other hand, in the mid-to-late 1930s, the way was clear for the Shanghai Party organization: all citizens had to unite if the city was to oppose Japanese occupation successfully. That was the message clear and simple.

4) Propaganda was more effective when cadres understood the conditions of those to whom they delivered the message. Most cadres were not workers or from the impoverished classes; they were intellectuals who had no problem whatsoever in talking to Shanghai's elite. In the Shaan-Gan-Ning Border Region, cadres who had no experience with rural life and little understanding of how peasants lived were unable to talk to them. During the Rectification campaign, they were sent "down to the villages." While unpleasant for most cadres, it was an invaluable experience in learning how to talk to the people.

5) The audience's level of education did not determine the kind of revolutionary language used. An ideological message was sent to workers with little or no education while a practical message was delivered to Shanghai's elite, most of whom were well educated. However, in the Shaan-Gan-Ning Border Region, ideological language failed with illiterate peasant women; practical language succeeded.

6) The audience did not determine the kind of language employed; environment and inner-Party struggle did. The degree of upheaval in the Party influenced how radical the language was. Ideological messages indicated instability, while practical ones indicated stability. In the late 1920s and between 1937 and 1941, there was great discord within the CCP, so the message delivered to workers and peasant women was ideological. However, because the Shanghai Party in the mid-to-late 1930s was quite stable, as was the CCP once Mao consolidated his control during the Rectification movement, the message delivered at those times was much more practical.

It is overly simplistic to say that ideological language was universally ineffective, while practical language was universally effective; or that the use of ideological language always indicated inner-Party upheaval and uncertainty in policy, while practical language always indicated stability and clarity. Politics and history are never that clearcut. Nevertheless, the generalizations drawn from the three case studies do point out important differences in the way revolutionary language was employed and allow us to conclude that the success or failure of the message was, in large part, determined by the language used to convey it.

1. Mao Tse-tung (Mao Zedong), "A Talk to the Editorial Staff of the Shansi-Suiyuan Daily," in Selected Works, vol. 4 (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1965), p. 241.

2. Interview with Shanghai labor historian, Jiang Kelin, 23 May 1989.

3. Much of the discussion on Guomindang and gangster labor activities is taken from Elizabeth J. Perry, Shanghai on Strike (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), pp. 92-97.

4. The discussion of the Party's labor activities is taken from Zhongguo gongchandang Shanghaishi zuzhi ziliao [Historical materials on the organization of Shanghai's Chinese Communist party] (Shanghai: Renmin chubanshe, 1991), pp. 10-13; Zhongguo gongchandang zai Shanghai [The Chinese Communist party in Shanghai] (Shanghai: Renmin chubanshe, 1991), pp. 100-109.

5. "Resolution of the August 7 Emergency Conference" in A Documentary History of Chinese Communism, edited by Conrad Brandt, Benjamin I. Schwartz and John K. Fairbank (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1951), p. 121.

6. Jiangsu Provincial Executive Committee of the CCP, "Jinian wuyi gao minzhong shu" [The 1 May declaration to the masses], 1 May 1928, Jiangsu Provincial Archives, cat. 8, file 53.

7. Jiangsu Provincial Committee, "Zhonggong Jiangsusheng wei huazi tonggao disanshijiuhao fandui Fa diguozhuyi cisha Fashang dianche gongse gongren" [The CCP's Jiangsu Provincial Committee communication #39: Regarding the French imperialists assassination of the French tramway worker], 24 September 1928, Jiangsu Provincial Archives, cat. 8, file 121.

8. "Translation of Items of Interest from French Police Intelligence Report dated March 4, 1932," Shanghai Municipal Police Records (hereafter SMP), Box 25, Doc. 3323; "Translation of a communist handbill entitled "letter to Labourers [sic] in connection with the anniversary of the International Labour Day (May 1) which was found by the Municipal Police in Yangtszepoo District on April 23, 1932," SMP, G-2, Doc. 56; "Communist Propaganda," SMP, Box 9, Doc. 68.

9. "Summarized translation of a Communist handbill entitled "Letter to Shanghai juvenile unemployed . . . obtained by the Municipal Police in Western [Zhabei] on February 23, 1933," SMP, Box 21, Doc. 2554/14.

10. Zhang Chengzong, "KangRi banian de Shanghai dixia douzheng," [The Shanghai underground's eight years in anti-Japanese struggle] in KangRi fengyun lu (Shanghai: Renmin chubanshe, 1985), p. 12.

11. Foreign and Chinese police in 1934 seized the transmitters that linked the Shanghai Party with Moscow. During the National Salvation movement, information was obtain indirectly through the Soviet Consulate, travelers, and Comintern publications.

12. Considering the fact that the Party organization in Shanghai had been put in place by the Moscow-trained Internationalists, looking to the Comintern for guidance was a natural step.

13. "Communist propaganda obtained in Western Chapei [Zhabei] on October 12, 1935," SMP, Box 10, Doc. 73.

14. Despite what is commonly believed, the CCP's 1 August Declaration (1935), which called for the formation of a united front and an end to the hostilities with the GMD, was not a Maoist document at all. Wang Ming drafted it in Moscow. To make people think it was issued in China and then sent to Paris via Moscow, publication was withheld until 1 October 1935 when it appeared in the Comintern's Paris newspaper Jiuguo shibao [Salvation news]. Mao continued to oppose a united front until after the disastrous Eastern Expedition against Chiang Kai-shek and the warlord Yan Xishan in early 1936. See John W. Garver, "The Origins of the Second United Front," The China Quarterly 113 (March 1988): 34-56; Shum Kui-kwong, The Chinese Communists' Road to Power: The Anti-Japanese National United Front, 1935-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), pp. 22, 25, 64.

15. The first to be formed was the Women's Circles Salvation Association, followed by the Cultural Circles Salvation Association, the Professional Circles Salvation Association, the Educational Circles Salvation Association, and the Labor Circles Salvation Association. Eventually, the most powerful were the Cultural Circles, the Salvation Union of College Professors, the Union of Primary School Teachers in Shanghai, the Salvation Society of Film Workers in Shanghai, the Educational Society under National Emergency, the Salvation Federation of College Students in Shanghai, the Shanghai Students' Salvation Federation and the Chinese Students' Salvation Federation. See Zhang Chengzong, p. 2; Zhao Xian, "Kangzhan de shiqi de Shanghai funu jiuwang yundong" [The resistance period's Shanghai women's salvation movement] in "Bayisan": Kangzhan shiliao xuanbian (Shanghai: Renmin chubanshe, 1986), p. 377; Wang Yaoshan, p. 52; Hsiang Nai-kuang, "The Trick of Chinese Communists in Taking Advantage of War Against Japanese Aggressors to Expand Their Strength," Symposium on the History of the Republic of China, vol. IV (Taipei: China Cultural Service, 1981), p. 210.

16. Even if the Shanghai Party wanted to control the National Salvation movement, it could not have. In 1935, the estimated strength of the city's Party organization was 100, hardly a number that could take control of a movement as large and pervasive as the National Salvation movement in Shanghai. See Zhongguo gongchandang Shanghaishi zuzhishi ziliao, p. 84.

17. "Handbills Given Out by National Salvation Dramatic Group," SMP, Box 77, Doc. 8158.

18. SMP, Box 70, Doc. 8118.

19. "Youth's National Salvation Service Group-Activities on October 19," SMP, Box 70, Doc. 8140.

20. "National Salvation Propaganda purporting to emanate from the Chinese Communist Party," SMP, G-2, Doc. 57.

21. Yibao zhoukan [Translation monthly] (January 1939): 304.

22. "Dongyuan bianqu funu lai canjia xuanju yundong" [Mobilizing Border Region women to participate in the election movement], Jiefang ribao, 21 June 1941, p. 1.

23. This and stories like it were common. They undoubtedly contain elements of truth but were largely fictitious, devised to illustrate a point or to promote a model.

24. "Lihun de shensu" [Report on divorce], Jiefang ribao, 16 July 1941, p. 4.

25. "Zhongguo zhongyang guanyu de kangRi genjudi muqian funu gongzuo jueding" [Decisions of the CCP's Central Committee on the present work with women in the anti-Japanese base areas], Jiefang ribao, 26 February 1943, p. 1.

26. "Funu laodong yingxiong Ren Yunni" [Labor heroine Ren Yunni], Jiefang ribao, 2 July 1943, p. 3.

27. "Fangzhi nuyingxiong Liu Guiying zenyang fazhan fufang?" [How did the textile heroine Liu Guiying expand women's spinning?], Jiefang ribao, 9 January 1944, p. 4.

28. "Fangzhi nuyingxiong Liu Guiying zenyang fazhan fufang?" [How did the woman spinning and weaving heroine Liu Guiying expand women's spinning?], Jiefang ribao, 9 January 1944.


| Back to Working Paper Series |