It would be a mistake to believe that the Communists only appealed to the peasantry. Urban youths flocked to Yan′an, dismayed about Nationalist corruption, oppression, and weakness and hopeful about the possibilities of a new era under communism. They learned about this in their schools and universities from CCP members and sympathizers and by reading authors such as Lu Xun, Guo Moruo, Tian Han, and Mao Dun, as well as Edgar Snow′s Red Star over China, translated into Chinese in 1938. The united front allowed the Communists to operate across China, and hence to distribute party newspapers and journals such as the New China Daily. Liaison offices of the Eighth Route Army in Chongqing and Xi′an became important hubs of activity, maintaining contacts with local sympathizers while also directing covert operations and gathering intelligence. Wartime conditions also provided the CCP with political opportunities. It participated in the Political Consultative Conference, using it as a platform form which to criticize the Nationalists, demand political reform, and gain allies among national elites.
‘Mountaintop –ism′, that is, the splintering of the CCP, was a problem the CCP had to control. Well aware of this danger, which after the Long March had even led to the emergence of two competing Central Committees, and of the problems resulting from rapid expansion, Mao Zedong was determined to centralize power and instil into its ranks a common revolutionary vision. He did not want a series of base areas each following its own policies and with leaders concerned with their own region and merely aiming at survival. At a time of war, that would be understandable, but would also weaken the appeal of the CCP′s promise of a better future through revolution, an appeal that surely was important to its success.
Taking his cue from Stalin′s approach to unifying the Soviet Communist Party, incuding his determination to instil a common understanding of its history, in 1942 Mao launched the Rectification Campaign. That began at the top of the CCP, with the leadership asked to study texts by Mao and Stalin as well as a selection of CCP documents, selected to illustrate the erroneous policies of previous CCP leaders and the correct Maoist version of events. In meetings, participants were required to write self-criticisms in which they critiqued their past errors. This process was replicated throughout the CCP, working from the top downward. Although torture and executions occurred, the Rectification Movement was much less brutal than its predecessor of the early 1930s and its post-1949 successors. Mao used the Rectification Campaign to humiliate his enemies ruthlessly and to force even his supporters to submit fully to his authority. It left the CCP with one clear leader, a unified senior leadership, and a tightly organized and disciplined party, which controlled the armed forces through its system of military commissars, subject to party discipline, that went down to the platoon level.