In social media and physical encounters across the US and beyond, the Black Lives Matter movement, left-leaning political groups, and mainstream organizations have engaged in soft forms of struggle sessions and forced self-criticism routines, eerily resembling those the Red Guards oversaw at Mao’s behest during the Communist Chinese Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976.
During the Maoist Cultural Revolution, in struggle sessions, the guilty party – accused of selfishness, ignorance, and the embrace of bourgeois ideology – was pilloried with verbal and sometimes physical assaults by her comrades–until she broke down and confessed her characterological and ideological flaws. ‘Autocritique’ or self-criticism often began with voluntary submission of the guilty party, who subjected herself to a brutal verbal self-inspection and denigration before the jury of her comrades. Autocritique and struggle sessions could lead to imprisonment or death as the comrade was often found to be insufficiently pure. Today, they lead to diminished social standing, public humiliation, and the loss of jobs.