Meetings: The Operation of Grassroots Political Power in the Northwest Shanxi Anti-Japanese Base Area

开会: 晋西北抗日根据地基层政权的运行机制

In: Rural China
Jingzhi Yue (岳靖芝) Department of History, Peking University (北京大学历史系) Beijing China

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Grassroot communities are critical fields of governance. To enhance the development of local government and to mobilize, organize, and arm the people to fight against the Japanese invaders, the Communist Party employed a number of methods in the base areas during the Anti-Japanese war. Among them, holding meetings was an effective method to get the work done and to forge leadership in local governance in the base areas, and it built a space of power that incorporated and displayed both group and individual experiences. Though the endless rounds of meetings can be seen as a kind of formalism, they provide a pivotal angle to observe the operation of power in the Northwest Shanxi Anti-Japanese Base Area. For the Communist Party, whose purpose was to reshape the countryside, the implementation of policies was far more important than their formulation. The villages were the critical places where the Party interacted with the people, where most of the meetings occurred, and where most of the policy directives were implemented. Grassroot meetings in the base areas revealed directly the willingness of the people to participate as well as their on-site performance, and indirectly the response of the people toward the Party’s policies and how the Party dealt with that response. Making decisions, mobilizing and organizing the people, and implementing policies were the basic functions of meetings. The establishment of the institution of meetings and the twists and turns of its practice reflected the gaps between the Party’s ideal and practice, and between the Party and the people.

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