Brainwashing; the story of men who defied it by Edward Hunter

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  1. I have recently started reading "Brain-Washing in Red China" by Edward Hunter, since the copyright has expired it is available for free on;
    His follow-up work "Brainwashing; the story of men who defied it" is also on

    The first reviewer on says it all:

    "i knew nothing of this history, shocking stuff. The basic premise explains how communism as a philosophy and regime was actually principally interested in turning people into mind controlled slaves by inverting the science of psychiatry, so that instead of using it to heal mental illness, was used to create it, which was the process that became known in communist block countries as "brainwashing", aka "corticovisceral psychiatry" and when used with malevolent intent as in communism, involved breaking a persons capacity for self autonomy, ability to determine fact from fiction, right from wrong, freedom from slavery, turning the mind bitter and hateful, all to turn people into mindless robots willing to think and do anything the authority wants"

    And when you now think "hmmm... sounds familar... where have I seen this before?", I can only say, wait till you actually read the books!

    I already spoke about it a bit in the thread about 1984, but I feel Brainwashing in Red China might be even more relevant so I felt it deserved its own thread and I also wanna give you an excerpt that I felt relevant (which doesn't mean the rest of the book is any less relevant)

    I admit that it is a long exerpt, but TRUST ME, IT IS ABSOLUTELY WORTH READING:

    "There were about 8,500 students at the North China Peo-
    ple’s Revolutionary University when Chi arrived. Forty-six
    wooden, two-story barracks, each divided into twenty-four
    rooms, covered an area three miles in circumference. Of
    this area seven acres were parade grounds, used now in place
    of an auditorium. The barracks had been a training center for
    the Japanese and later for Gen. Fu Tse-yi’s 207th Regiment.
    The gun emplacements were still there.

    When the truckload of transferred students reached the
    gates of the Revolutionary University, it was greeted by stu-
    dents who themselves had arrived only the previous week.
    They came out beating drums, shouting slogans, and doing
    the yang ko — the short, prancing folk dance based on the
    way a coolie walks while carrying a heavy load on his shoul-
    ders — ^which the Communist Party has made its dance sym-
    bol. They surrounded the truck and walked "with it through
    the gate. The escort brought water for the parched anivals
    and helped them carry their baggage inside. The new stu-
    dents were received like heroes and taken to a bathhouse
    inside one of the barracks to bathe in water that happened
    to be warm that day and to rest.

    Older students and party members were waiting ceremo-
    niously at the entrance to welcome the newcomers and to ask
    them if they were willing to enter the Revolutionary Univer-
    sity. The arrivals just as ceremoniously said that of course
    they were glad to come, for certainly they would be better
    taught here than anywhere else. Wasn’t it, after all, operated
    by the Communist Party itself?

    “With their help, we told the older students, we were sure
    we would all become Communist Party members in a short
    time,” Chi recalled. ‘We were given lunch at one-thirty, an
    unexpectedly good lunch with manto, a popular dish of meat
    and dumplings. ‘We’re lucky you came,’ one of the older stu-
    dents said. ‘This isn’t the usual food. Life is very hard in the
    university. Be prepared for it.'

    “A group of students then showed us about the university
    and took us for a walk around the campus. They escorted us
    to the exquisite Summer Palace nearby, where the Dowager
    Empress used to enjoy herself. When we returned at about six
    in the evening, we sat down to the same good food and then
    saw a movie. It was about the May Day parade in Soviet
    Russia. We went to bed about nine-thirty.

    “When we woke up the next morning, we were shown
    where to wash at wells outside. Then we went to breakfast.
    We had breakfast every morning that first week, but after
    that no more. From then on we had only two meals a day. Af-
    ter breakfast we were divided into classes and groups. I was
    put in the second department, second class, fourth group.”

    The students were divided among four departments; one
    for students sent from other universities for ideological reform;
    another for intelligence personnel of the Military Revolution-
    ary Committee of the Communist army; a third for members
    of the various liberal groups and parties (that these had been
    anti-Kuomintang and had cooperated with the Reds made no
    difference); and a fourth department for Party members ac-
    cused of bungling their tasks or doing poor work. There was a
    fifth department, too, directly under the principal, called the
    Study Department. However, it wasn’t for study hy the stu-
    dents but for study of the students — of their thoughts. Each of
    the four departments was divided into ten classes and each
    class into nine groups of twenty-three students. The faculty
    numbered four hundred and fifty, including about one hun-
    dred and twenty young women. The men were from twenty-
    eight to forty years old and the women between twenty-three
    and twenty-eight. One faculty member was assigned to each
    group but not as a professor or even a teacher. He was always
    a Party member who brought his own stool and sat aside lis-
    tening and taking notes, not intervening except to settle points
    in the discussion. Actually he was not even a faculty
    member, but a Party member who had slipped up somewhere
    in the past and was himself deemed in need of a measure of
    mind reform. While indoctrinating others, he reaffirmed and
    strengthened his own indoctrination.

    Chi, the interpreter, and I had quite a discussion on how to
    class this individual. Commissar was correct but vague. He
    was more a moderator than a teacher but had greater author-
    ity than a moderator.

    “How did the students refer to him when they talked
    among themselves?” I asked, expecting this to settle the ques-

    “When we spoke about him among ourselves, we always
    referred to him simply as Comrade, or as the able Party mem-
    ber,” Chi informed me. This was obviously one of those safe
    compromises which evade the issue. Comrade was the term
    used in referring to anyone in Red China, from Mao Tse-
    tung, who headed the government, to the farmer in the field.
    Able Party member was also a vague term, but there were
    certain specific meanings to it that gave it significance. The
    term able Party member is used quite generally. He can be
    the political commissar of an army detachment, a class leader,
    or he can fulfill any of the innumerable watchdog posts with
    which Communist Party members are entrusted.

    About twenty students were assigned to a room in which
    everyone slept on the floor. Each student was given a small
    stool on which he put his name and which he carried with
    him. Each brought his own blanket, but was given about
    five pounds of straw to help keep warm in the winter, for
    it gets bitingly cold in North China. Every room had a small
    coal stove, but only one catty (1/3 pounds) of coal was al-
    lotted each day, and this had to be used up the same day and
    not saved for a colder period. Conserving coal was consid-
    ered the same as creating private property. ‘We shivered in
    those rooms, and our hands and feet almost froze,” Chi
  2. “Meals soon became routine— two a day— always a plate
    of vegetables and Chinese millet without any
    tea. We drank only well water, which we boiled. Everv two
    weeks we had a meat course, two ounces of meat each. We
    were not allowed to buy anything even if we had the money.
    That was considered the same as capitalism. A few who
    thought they were underfed bought eggs in the neighborhood,
    but were criticized for having bourgeois ideas of enjoyment.
    So they stopped those small purchases. Many of us became
    ill, mostly with stomach troubles and coughs. There was a
    doctor, but he seemed to know little about medicine.”

    The Revolutionary University was directly under the
    Party’s North China Department. The principal was Liu
    Len-tao, a member of the Central Committee of the Political
    Department of the Party. A graduate of the Yenan Anti-
    Japanese University, he was fat, a six-footer, and had been a
    guerrilla in Shansi Province during the anti-Japanese war-
    fare. The only professor was the writer Ai Tze-chi, the lead-
    ing political philosopher of the Communist Party and its rec-
    ognized authority on the indoctrination movement. He came
    only once a week, usually on Tuesday, when he spoke length-
    ily to the entire student body gathered on the open parade
    ground. Everyone brought his own stool. Ai spoke before a
    microphone, and four loudspeakers broadcast his words. The
    lecture was often broadcast to learning groups elsewhere.

    When Chi’s group was formed, its leader ceremoniously
    suggested that if anyone suffered any inconvenience in the
    university or had any complaint whatsoever he should in-
    form him of it. Many students, he explained, were not used
    to the type of training they would get. The students replied,
    just as ceremoniously, that they hoped he would help them
    follow the same hard life he led. The first morning, after in-
    troductions all around, there was a brief free talk in the
    group, just a chat, with no organized discussion.

    “Our actual studies began that day at ten in the morning,
    when the whole student body went out to the parade ground
    where Ai Tze-chi gave us a lecture entitled ‘Labor Creates
    the World.’ He told us that our ancestors were animals and
    that we must never forget our lowly origin. We could no
    longer be parasites; we must undergo a hard life and help la-
    bor advance. He talked for seven hours straight.

    “We sat on our stools and took plenty of notes. There was
    nothing to drink or eat, and though we felt very weary we had
    to take copious notes, because we knew that after the lecture
    each group would spend the rest of the week discussing the
    lecture, and we had to prove that we had listened to it very

    “When the lecture was over we checked up on each other’s
    notes to see if we had missed any points. We were sup-
    posed to read them over three times and to be sure that we
    had grasped the theme of the lecture. We were supposed to
    ask ourselves what the speaker wanted us to extract from his
    mind. When we had any doubts about his ideas, or when
    there seemed to be some contradictions, we were supposed to
    raise those questions in our group discussions. This was one of
    the main purposes of the discussions. Heated arguments often
    ensued over the exact meaning of some particular phrase.”

    Ai’s lectures always lasted from four to seven hours. He
    gave a nine- week course on these subjects: “Labor Creates
    the World”; “Idea Formation and Class Property”; “The Class
    Foundation”; “Internationalism”; ‘The History of the Chi-
    nese Communist Party”; “The History of the Chinese Revo-
    lution”; “Modem Chinese History”; and “A Brief History
    of the Imperialist Invasion of China.”

    A number of students in their first discussion said they
    doubted Ai’s statement that “existing matter determined
    thought.” The group leader said these doubts were absurd.
    “The reason we fly is not that we have planes,” one student
    persisted. “We made planes so that we could fly.” The leader
    said, “No, the airplane had to come from some form and not
    from nothing. What, then? Man saw birds fly, from which he
    got the idea he might fly himself, and so he built an airplane.”

    A student said that this was not the same thing, because
    airplanes aren't made like birds, with animal organs, but out
    of engines and machine parts. “An engine is the invention of
    a human being, which proves that labor can create anything,”
    the leader retorted.

    He then ended the discussion with the smiling remark, “If
    you don’t believe that labor creates the world, then we’ll make
    an experiment, right out in the open fields.”

    The group found out what was meant by a field experiment
    the very next morning. All the groups found out. Each was
    given a small plot of land to farm. Production contests were
    started at once and continued for two and a half days. Then,
    after half a day of rest, the farm work was resumed on a new
    schedule that went on unchanged for three months. Field
    work took place daily from ten in the morning to one in the
    afternoon. Farm labor consumed a third of the entire uni-
    versity program.

    In a production contest Chi’s group won second prize, a
    pennant with the words “Labor Model.” First prize was a
    pennant reading “Mao Tse-tung’s Good Students.” They
    were hung in the classrooms and could not be taken away. The
    crops were mainly spinach and cabbage, the mainstay of the
    university meals. Some students became ill from overwork,
    and others hurt their hands or legs. "Henceforth you will un-
    derstand the sufferings of the farming class,” they were told.

    Two slogans were posted: "Every grain of cooked rice,
    every morsel of rice gruel, is the blood and sweat of the peo-
    ple”; and, "When you drink water, think of its origin; don’t
    forget the farmer.” The latter is a materialist version of the
    old Chinese maxim, "When drinking water, remember its

    Students who belonged to the Communist Party kept their
    affiliation secret during the first two months of the course in
    order to obtain information on the background and ideas of
    the other students. "I couldn’t talk frankly to my schoolmates,
    so I developed no special friendships,” Chi said. "Nobody
    dared say what was in his mind for fear that a fellow student
    would report it to the university heads. Indeed, such dis-
    closures were part of the requirements and were encouraged
    as part of the university’s self-criticism program. The whole
    course was arranged so as to induce a student to reveal his
    deepest feelings and exact reactions.

    "Real friendship could not grow up under such circum-
    stances. All intimacy was artificial, with a calculated pur-
    pose. You could sense it in the atmosphere. Many students
    avoided me, too, because the news had spread that I had
    raised the Dairen and Port Arthur question at Tsing Hua.

    "Our entire course was for the sole purpose of making us
    capable of being pure and reliable Communist Party mem-
    bers,’ who could be trusted to remain unflinchingly loyal to
    the Party under any and all circumstances and in any en-

    "Even the students in the intelligence group received no
    technical training. They, too, were in the university just to
    ‘reform their thoughts’ and to form definitive ‘trustworthy
    thoughts.’ But their ‘thoughts’ must not interfere with their
    dependability under all circumstances. This was regarded as
    more important than technical training.

    “After returning from field work, we usually had to write
    a report on it. The university wasn’t interested in technical
    details, such as how best to sow seeds, to water and fertilize,
    or till and weed, but rather in our personal feelings while at
    work and our attitude toward labor. We had no textbooks.
    Our textbooks were supposed to be our notebooks, which we
    crowded with notes. This was where we got the material for
    our group discussions.”

    When fall came the students were instructed to prepare
    for winter defense against thieves and bandits. The walls
    around the barracks had been destroyed during the Commu-
    nist siege of Peiping, and the students were now sent out to
    repair them. This work lasted four hours a day for half a
    month. After rebuilding the walls, the students were shifted
    to road repairs. They were assigned an eight-mile stretch of
    highway between the West Gate of Peiping and the univer-
    sity. The entire student body worked at this and finished the
    job in a week.

    “This was supposed to be an education program and was
    called reform by labor,” Chi said. “We were supposed to
    learn the value of labor that way. We just worked. We
    weren’t shown any modem farming methods, and the road
    repairs were the most primitive, using only shovels and

    The backbone of the Revolutionary University’s course was
    a personal investigation into the views and attitudes of every
    member of the student body. This was the medium for and
    the test of idea training.

    Idea training began with the study of a subject called Idea
    Formation and Class Property. The big capitalists, the stu-
    dents were taught, aimed only at increasing their profits.
    The little capitalists tried to improve their lives, to progress,
    in order to achieve a secure, enjoyable existence. The workers
    aimed for security, just hoping to keep their jobs without in-
    terruption. Farmers did their duty, which is farming, but
    cared only for their own crops, and had a narrow perspective.

    The university authorities asked the students to analyze
    their own ideas on the basis of those four points and to write
    a complete report on their thoughts. When the reports were
    handed in, the university used them as the basis for a per-
    sonal inquiry into the views and attitudes of every member of
    the student body. This enabled the authorities to probe into
    each student’s personal history as interpreted through the
    Marxist-Leninist doctrine of historical materialism.

    The first part of the inquiry went back three generations,
    into how each student, his parents, and grandparents lived,
    and how they supported themselves. The students were asked
    to write about what they were taught at home, what they
    were taught in school, and then to describe their personal re-
    lationships in society. This had to be followed by a descrip-
    tion of their preferences in general and what kind of people
    they liked to associate with.

    After all this data had been assembled, the authorities fig-
    ured that they had the thought processes of their students
    fairly well dissected. Then they did a clever trick. They com-
    pared the first report the students made on their personal
    views and attitudes with the details they had given in the re-
    port on their family backgrounds.

    The announcement was then made in a dramatic manner
    that this checkup showed that half of the students (about
    4,000) had deep-set contradictions in their lives. They were
    told that this proved that in the former capitalist society in
    which they had been reared they had been dark people, that
    is, sinneis. In China’s new democracy, they must cleanse
    their minds of all remnants of their evil past. The process
    through which this had to be done was by confession — the
    frank admission of their sinful, contradictory pasts in
    open congregation — publicly — through the medium of self-
    criticism. This was perverted evangelism and, along with
    quack psychiatry, constituted the two pillars of Red China’s
    reformation program. The students were asked whether they
    preferred to be master or servant, and were told that if they
    wanted to be the master this showed that they needed to re-
    form their thoughts, which could only be done by revealing
    their dark pasts.

    “If you don’t reveal your wrong thoughts and bad deeds,”
    went the warning, “they will be an intolerable burden on your
    shoulders. They will become heavier and heavier, until the
    time comes when you no longer will be able to bear their great
    weight.” They were cautioned that this burden of thoughts
    would surely become overwhelming, so the only way to be-
    come a new man was by revealing one’s bad past, unhesitat-

    “Surely the students didn’t take this seriously!” I ex-
    claimed. “Didn’t they consider this kind of reasoning as a
    corny joke?”

    Chi looked at me with the utmost seriousness. “A great
    struggle went on for the thoughts of the students during this
    period,” he said. “This was a great struggle, truly a struggle
    of one’s spirit. You must not underestimate it if you want to
    understand what took place. You must remember the envi-
    ronment in which we have been living.” His sincerity was
    evident. He continued.

    “The intensity of this personal struggle in our minds, and
    for our minds, can hardly be exaggerated. This was especially
    so in the case of anyone who had been a sympathizer with or
    a member of the Kuomintang, who had worked for the Na-
    tionalists, or who might have been an intelligence agent for
    the Chiang Kai-shek regime.

    “In such a struggle, the question would come up in a stu-
    dent’s mind in this way: If I reveal that I was a member of
    the Kuomintang, what action will the authorities take against
    me? If I don’t confess, will it influence me in a bad way in my
    future work?”

    Chi was speaking fast now, and I had to slow him down. He
    seemed to be living again those tense hours. “During this in-
    ternal struggle, many students found it impossible to relax at
    all,” he went on. “Some could not sleep the whole night
    through. When a student was resdess at night this way, or
    couldn’t sleep, someone sleeping near him would be sure to
    notice it. The next day the agitated individual would be
    asked why he hadn’t been able to sleep peacefully.

    "What were you thinking about last night? What kept
    you awake?’ he would be asked in a sympathetic tone. ‘If you
    don’t feel like revealing it in public, tell it to me.’ ”

    This was the point in the interview when I suddenly had
    that feeling of having heard this before, but couldn’t remem-
    ber where, until I recalled my visit to that most modem men-
    tal hospital. If what was practised there was psychiatry, what
    Chi was telling me about was surely quack psychiatry. No
    wonder this gave me the eerie sensation of a world turned
    inside out, a world more horrible than a tale by Edgar Allan
    Poe, and one which made the ghastliness of a Grand Guignol
    fantasy seem normal.

    “There was no escape from this questioning,” Chi went on.
    “Even when you lay down at night you were watched, and
    your movements would betray your innermost thoughts. The
    fact that you couldn’t hide even in sleep tormented you and
    made you even more restless.”

    Special agents conducted such questioning. Chi’s attempt
    to tell me what these people were called led, as so often under
    such circumstances, into a maze of semantics. There were
    plenty of ways of translating it, but each time some essential
    point would be left out or the words would lend themselves to
    several interpretations. Doubletalk, which is so handy for
    propagandists, thrives in such situations. The translator fa-
    vored the term “thought-seduction worker,” and this seemed
    to fit best. The man’s job was to coax forth the intimate
    thoughts, the secrets which the students struggled to keep to
    themselves. It could also be translated as “thought-revealing
    worker,” but it was actually more penetrating than that. The
    Chinese characters chi fah meant more than just to reveal;
    they conveyed the sense of enticement, of seduction.

    The difficulty we had finding a translation that would be
    completely true to the original phrasing and would also con-
    vey the correct nuance of the original demonstrates one of
    the main reasons for the confusion and misunderstand-
    ing over what is taking place in foreign countries. Editors
    naturally insist on simple specific language that is under-
    standable within the framework of their readers’ lives. Yet
    there are many words or phrases in one language that simply
    have no equivalent in another. To provide such a snap trans-
    lation may be a clever bit of writing, but only at the sacrifice
    of accuracy. We are given an approximation, but not what
    the original exactly meant. Totalitarians have not hesitated
    to take full propaganda advantage of this search by the poli-
    tician, the reporter, and the headline vndter for the happy
    graphic comparison.

    An inflexible rule in group discussions was that everyone
    had to participate. “After the weekly lecture,” Chi said, “if
    you didn’t speak up, and at length, to show your own point of
    view and thought processes, when you went for your rest pe-
    riod afterwards, you would be asked, ‘Why did you have no
    opinion to contribute to your group?'

    “If you replied that you had no questions to ask, you would
    be told, ‘This means that you accept the whole idea of the lec-
    ture. If you accept it, this must mean that you understand it.
    Then why don’t you speak up to help others understand? If
    you don’t understand, then why don’t you ask questions?’

    “So everyone talks. Whether what they say represents their
    own ideas is irrelevant. Talking, you can’t keep from expos-
    ing your own mental processes, and talking helps you indoc-
    trinate yourself.

    “A subtle pressure is used against a person who does not
    enter the discussion to the extent desired. In self-criticism
    sessions he is called a lagging-behind particle, a backward
    element, someone without responsibility for the People’s

    "Students became miserable under such pressures. When a
    lecturer said something that contradicted his main point, you
    didn’t dare bring it up, even by a hint. You asked only super-
    ficial questions and accepted the ideas handed down to you.

    "There was no escape. After each lecture, the groups of
    twenty-three would meet separately to agree on the speaker’s
    main idea. Then each group would break up into small sec-
    tions to confirm the group findings by discussing the lecture
    in detail so as to rationalize all points that seemed to conflict
    with the main idea. The object of breaking up into smaller
    groups, we were told, was to give each person the opportunity
    to find the correct answer by himself.
  4. "Often, too, a group would be encouraged to challenge an-
    other group, sending it a ticklish question of political dogma
    to solve. If this group succeeded — success meant always ex-
    plaining away any contradictions — it published its conclusions
    in the wall paper, taking credit for it. This was called a learn-
    ing contest.

    “If a whole class of nine groups couldn’t solve a problem,
    the class head would summon all of them together for a class
    meeting. Always, by the end of the meeting, any ideas among
    the students that were not politically orthodox were sure to
    succumb to those of the university authorities.

    “A problem was not considered solved if one person re-
    mained in a group who did not say that he was convinced.
    Opinions had to be unanimous.

    “When the entire class met, at a certain stage in the dis-
    cussion questions could no longer be raised opposing the
    line laid down by the class leader. This stage was reached
    when it seemed possible that if discussion continued an oppo-
    site opinion might make headway.

    “The class head, practiced in detecting such dangerous mo-
    ments, halted discussion by a simple tactic. When a student
    wanted to speak, the system was that he raised his hand and
    stated whether he opposed or favored the view taken by
    the previous speaker. The instructor always could choke off
    one side by saying, Wait until the other side talks.’ Then,
    after allowing only those who agreed with the Party view-
    point to express themselves, he could announce the desired
    conclusion as that of the whole class and declare the meeting
    over. This was frequently done.

    “A student had no right to speak once discussion was de-
    clared over. This was called maintaining discipline at a meet-
    ing. Anyone who tried to speak up would be criticized for
    disobedience. Where political opinions are the issue, disobedi-
    ence becomes a very critical matter, affecting one's entire

    Even so, the psychological pressure exerted by this skill-
    fully devised technique of creating a hypnotic state of fatigue
    and forcing a person, while in this trance, to repeat again and
    again, lengthily and in his own words the political dogma de-
    manded of him, was not over yet. This was only the prepara-
    tory stage. The main pressures were yet to come under
    critical, hypersensitive group conditions.

    "After this initial period of mental struggle and mind re-
    form, we were given back our reports and asked to rewrite
    them in accordance with the new thinking we had achieved
    through our intensive self-criticism program,” Chi declared.
    “This was called our thought conclusion.”

    “The students became terribly upset and very unhappy
    during this period. Girls often broke into tears, weeping aloud
    under this constant probing into their thoughts and the in-
    ternal struggles brought about in their mental systems. But
    they weren’t the only ones to collapse. Men did also. They
    wept more than the girls, it seemed, but they were under
    greater pressure. Girls had fewer social contacts, politically
    speaking, and so comparatively less pressure was put on
    them. Some tried to escape from what seemed an insoluble
    problem by leaping into the quietude of Kwan Ming Lake
    within the grounds of the Summer Palace. Some tried other
    ways of committing suicide.

    "The Communists taught that everything that a Kuomin-
    tang member bad ever done was against the people’s welfare.
    One student couldn’t bring himself to understand how he,
    himself, had mistreated and exploited the people. He was no
    capitalist; he was just a plain workman. An idea-seduction
    worker told him that if he didn’t confess in the group that he
    had worked against the people’s welfare he would be sent to
    the People’s New Life Labor School at Peiping, where he
    would get even more strenuous idea training and greater as-
    sistance in self-criticism.

    “Idea training at the People’s New Life Labor School con-
    sisted of six months of study and hard labor, and, if the re-
    sults were unsatisfactory, the student would be kept on. Only
    if he did well during this period, he was told, and his ideas
    came closer to those of true workingmen could he be released.

    “The student was horrified. He knew that the People’s
    New Life Labor School was the same as a forced labor camp.
    The only difference was that you had to put yourself into a
    state of mind of agreeing that you were going there voluntar-
    ily to improve yourself. This requirement created a new men-
    tal struggle, for the simple fellow felt that this was all wrong
    and became greatly agitated. He apparently saw only one
    outlet — death — and committed suicide in our placid, inviting

    “There was another student, a graduate of "the eco-
    nomics department of Nanking University, who had been
    employed by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation
    Administration in Nanking to gather statistics. He had been
    closely attracted by the American way of life and firmly be-
    lieved that the welfare of the workers and farmers in the
    United States was being protected. He couldn’t see why
    China had to lean to one side, as demanded by Mao.

    “The university let him know that he was reactionary and
    stubborn, was suffering from America-fascination, and that
    he was doped with Americanism. He was warned that his
    state of mind would lead him to become a traitor, a hateful
    compradore, and an antirevolutionist. He was transferred
    to a college in Sinkiang Province to till the soil. This was a
    college only in name; actually it was a forced labor camp.

    “The student protested that this was not reform, but a war
    of nerves intended to make him confess what he hadn’t done.
    This was the same as ‘mopping away the truth, forcing one
    to do what he doesn’t want to do,’ he declared. One night he
    swallowed an overdose of sleeping tablets, but was discovered
    and sent to the North China People’s Hospital in time to save
    his life. Upon recovery he was immediately shipped to a la-
    bor university in Chahar Province to continue his idea re-
    form under even more strenuous conditions. Two thirds of
    the time was spent in hard labor, and one third in classroom
    activity of the group discussion and self-criticism type.

    “A special name was used to describe this period of inten-
    sive inquiry into our attitudes; it was called inspection of
    ideas, and at its conclusion, seventeen students were sent to
    the People’s New Life Labor School.’’


    “Seventeen girls, so far as I know, were pregnant at gradu-
    ation time. Most of them asked for permission to marry, and
    I am sure the boys wanted to marry them. Some told me so.
    The authorities refused point-blank to give permission for
    any of them to marry. The university pointed out that it was
    unlikely that any of them would work in the same locality
    after they were assigned to their new jobs following gradu-
    ation, and so marriage would only handicap their Party ac-

    “The girls asked, ‘Who will be the father of my child? It is
    shameful to have a baby without a father.’ The university
    answered that this was a feudal idea. When they asked,
    ‘What shall I do if a boy is born?’ they were informed, ‘Your
    child will be the people’s boy and will be raised by the govern-
    ment.' They were told they didn’t have to worry.

    “One of the girl group leaders had two children, both boys,
    who were being reared in Peiping at a nursery home run by
    the Party. I accompanied her there one Sunday by special
    permission. We went by bus. She had not been married, and
    her two children, aged three and one, were sons of the people.

    “I just called her Comrade, the way we all addressed each
    other. She was twenty-six, stocky, with a fresh complexion
    and an oval face. She came from Hopei Province, where she
    had graduated from the Military and Political University at
    Shih Chia Chuang. She was a farm girl who had become a
    Party member quite young and knew nothing else but Party
    work. She never told me the details of her past.

    “She made a curious remark to me one day. 'If you would
    cut off your relations with your father,’ she said, ‘perhaps our
    political affections for each other could he better.’ Whether
    this implied a willingness to marry me, or what, I never found
    out. The relations between ourselves and our relatives were
    controversial points in our group discussions and personal
    struggles at that time.

    “During this period of inspection of ideas, many sons
    were advised to cease all communications with their parents.
    A landowner’s son was told, ‘Your father belongs to the ex-
    ploiting class, while those who have undergone idea reform
    do not belong to the exploiting class.’ The suggestion was
    made that he eliminate such antisocial relationships from his
    life. This constituted both a warning and advice.

    “Efforts were made to discredit family connections gen-
    erally. This was during the class-distinction period and co-
    incided with the complete right-about-face in the at-
    titude of the university toward the mingling of the sexes.
    During the class-distinction period the students were told,
    ‘You must fight against your family and reveal what your
    family did in the past.’

    “The authorities made an intensive inquiry into my family
    ties. They wanted me to cut myself off from my father, to
    fight against him.”

    This was the turning point in Chi’s own attitude. Except
    for the incident of the wall paper at Tsing Hua, which had
    been provoked by his inquisitive, essentially fair nature, he
    had accepted Communist claims at face value.
  5. “My father is only a small merchant and didn’t earn
    enough to support the family, so my mother had to go to work
    too,” he told the university authorities. “As for me, I have
    been wandering since I was nine years old. I feel that my
    father himself has been exploited and I’ve spent my child-
    hood and youth half in work, half in study. In my thoughts
    and feelings I simply can’t cut myself off from my family and
    fight against them. If I have to, I can only ask myself what
    meaning is there to life in this world and why was there a

    “My father and mother now are very old,” he had pleaded.

    “They have little work and are almost unable to engage in
    any business. On what or on whom are they going to depend
    in their old lives? Their sole ambition was that I could work
    and earn some money with which to support them. If I now
    cut off my relations with my family, it means that I want
    them to starve to death.

    “If the university insists, then I would rather be an anti-
    revolutionary. I will do anything the government wants me
    to do, but I will not, under any circumstances, separate my-
    self from my parents. I will accept any punishment the uni-
    versity sees fit to impose on me rather than do that.”

    The university assigned a faculty member to have a de-
    tailed talk with him about his family situation. “I told him
    that my family lived in Shanghai and led a life proba-
    bly poorer than that of the working class or farmers, having
    no piece of property they could call their own. If the univer-
    sity didn’t believe me, I said it certainly could send someone
    to Shanghai to investigate.

    “A Party member was sent, and on his return reported that
    my family’s condition was not as poor as I had made out. ‘His
    parents are much better off than the farmers,’ he told the uni-
    versity. 'At least they dress much better. If they have no
    money, they can borrow some from relatives. His father
    and mother, although over fifty, are still able to work.’

    "He reported that my parents could be sent to North
    China to work on a farm, and that it was not necessary for
    me to support them. I was therefore told that from then on I
    must understand that I was a son of the people, and not of my

    “ ‘In the future you must work for the people, and thoughts
    about your family must not be permitted to arise,’ I was in-
    structed. The university authorities said they trusted that I
    would reconsider my position and let them know my decision.
    I told them I would do so and I kept telling them this until

    “Because I refused to break relations with my parents, the
    Communists sent policemen to neighbors of ours in Shanghai
    to gather information against them. I learned of three such
    instances. They also ashed about my past activities. They
    could find nothing against us. From then until I gradu-
    ated, some able Party member would come to me every once
    in a while to discuss my parents with me and to try to per-
    suade me to make the break.

    “They asked me whether I considered my country or my
    family the more important. Weren’t the lives of the 475,000,-
    000 people of China more important than the lives of a few
    persons in my family? I just didn’t reply. Actually, I couldn’t
    see how my father and mother could be considered outside of
    the Chinese people. Weren’t they Chinese too"? The object
    of the revolution seemed to me to be the improvement of the
    living conditions of everyone, and I believed that the benefit
    brought the nation by the revolution should coincide with
    the gains made by its people.

    “If everyone severed relations with their relatives, it
    seemed to me that this would only add to the chaos in China.”

    His was not the only such problem. Many students were
    married, and had been separated from their husbands or
    wives by this training course. They keenly felt the pressure
    against their family ties. When a married person entered a
    Revolutionary University it usually meant that he was sepa-
    rated permanently from his wife, because he knew that after
    graduation he almost surely would be sent to work in some
    locality where the other couldn’t go. The Communists tried
    to persuade such persons to ask for a divorce. They based this
    demand on the reasoning that once a man has gone through a
    course in idea training, while his wife continued living or
    working somewhere else, their ideas would not be alike when
    they resumed living together. They would have different
    viewpoints on life. So a divorce was recommended as the only
    way out.

    Married students were told, “This course is giving you a
    different political foundation from that of your wife. 'There
    can only be two alternatives. If you resume living together,
    either you will influence her, or she will influence you. Un-
    fortunately, experience has shown that for the most part it
    is always the person who does not participate in idea train-
    ing who influences the other.”

    The students asked why old thoughts should decisively in-
    fluence new thoughts and overwhelm them. The answer they
    got was; “After spending twenty or more years in the old so-
    ciety, you can’t expect idea training to cure your mind of all
    that evil past. Remnants of it will still persist in your mem-
    ories, and this is what makes it possible for you to suffer a
    relapse and return to your old way of thinking.”

    A number of the married students were persuaded by this
    sort of logic to divorce their wives or husbands. Chi said they
    were a pathetic sight when they finally sat down to
    write home for a divorce. The able Party member and the
    group leader would encourage them during such periods of
    intensity. “You are doing right,” they told them. “Don’t
    weep; be a man.”


    The discovery that his family had been put under police sur-
    veillance in Shanghai shocked Chi. Thereafter he was very
    careful to say only those things that he thought the Commu-
    nists wanted him to say and he no longer raised any questions
    that might be interpreted as counterrevolutionary.

    Graduation day either sent a student to a job that the Com-
    munist Party had decided he was fit to handle, to a stricter
    institution for further mind reform, or kept him back in the
    university. Even so, the students were told that graduation
    after the normal six-month course was only the first step in
    mind reform because theories were learned in school and
    had to be translated into practical life in the outside world.
    The Revolutionary University was considered a bridge from
    the old, decadent life to the new life.

    As in all group meetings, findings have to be unanimous.
    Sometimes, before an opinion is recorded, others in the stu-
    dent’s group, or in other groups, are brought in for consulta-
    tion, and sometimes the applicant’s entire group joins the dis-
    cussion before a decision is reached. There are no marks and
    no formal examinations into a student’s knowledge in any
    particular subject. All that matters is one’s revolutionary re-
    liability. There is a space allotted for remarks above the signa-
    tures. Whether the student is graduated, kept over, or trans-
    ferred to another idea reform institution is recorded below
    the signatures by the class head or higher authorities. The
    class head does not vinrite in the remarks section when the stu-
    dent is to be graduated, but only when there is something un-
    favorable to report.

    The student himself has to appear before the council,
    where he is called upon to participate in the discussion. “He
    often defends himself, as I did,” Chi said, by “reminding the
    group of some special revolutionary achievement or some ex-
    ample of revolutionary ardor. As it was, I was lucky to
    squeeze through. The list of my defects was much longer
    than the list of my good points. Indeed, I was judged to have
    only one good point, which was described on my form as ‘a
    positive attitude toward the laboring class.’ This was judged
    sufficient to pass me even though the remarks section of the
    form said I was a backward element.

    "I was found not steady in my political stand and it was
    felt that I hadn’t sufficiently grasped the principles of the
    revolution — Marxism-Leninism. This simply wasn’t so. Their
    conclusion was based on my refusal to cut myself off from
    my parents and was interpreted as a failure to meet the re-
    quirements of a relentless class war. It was considered as giv-
    ing overemphasis to my own personal situation and showing
    an unrevolutionary interest in one’s own profit. I was called
    stubborn. Another opinion, which at the time I feared would
    destroy me, was that some old ideas were still in my head, not
    yet completely eliminated. This, too, was probably an allu-
    sion to my attitude regarding my parents.

    “Three students fled before graduation. One ran away be-
    cause his wife was ill, and the university refused to give him
    permission to visit her. Another fled for the same reason that
    revolted me, the demand that he fight against his own father.
    The third student merely felt that Communist ideas were
    nonsense, so far as we could learn. Two other students had
    been sent to the New Life Labor School for thought reform.
    You rarely mentioned these cases. Of the original twenty-three
    students in my group, eighteen were present at graduation
  6. ThetanExterior

    ThetanExterior Gold Meritorious Patron

    ESMB rules:

    6. Link to long pieces of text where possible.
    Instead of copying and pasting long pieces of text, snip the bit you want and link to the rest. Experience shows that the longer your post is the less likely it will be read anyway.
  7. Yeah, I know, but I simply found no way to link to a specific section inside a PDF document.
    But, yeah I really recommend the entire book, or even both books. There is just so much in there where I went like "wait a minute... I know those tactics!". Of course, the reason it is familiar to me is because as I mentioned in my introduction, I grew up in a Communist environment... but from what I read on this Forum, I am pretty sure I am not the only one who will find those (admittedly extremely frightening tactics) familiar ;-)
  8. EZ Linus

    EZ Linus Cleared Tomato

    Emmanuel, you might be interested in Robert Lifton's book, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, taken from his studies on how the Chinese technique of brainwashing prisoners of war. There is a main focus known as the Eight Criteria that is used to determine when one is caught in a brainwashing cult.