IDEOLOGUE Mr Deng Liqun's National Historical Society has attained the status and ranking of a ministry, according to sources in Beijing. Mr Deng, a former head of the party's propaganda department, set up the society early last month as a base for conservative commissars and party elders. The sources said while such an institution was usually classified as an ''organisation of the masses'', Mr Deng had pulled strings to upgrade its status to a fully-fledged ''ministerial-ranked'' unit under the Communist Party. ''Being a ministerial-ranked unit, the society will have the resources to pay its affiliates well and to host conferences and other activities,'' a source said. ''Deng Liqun wants the society to be a base for launching his campaign against 'bourgeois liberalisation'.'' Mr Deng, the society's founding president, has signed up the bulk of Beijing's leftist scholars as well as retired cadres and military officers. But the reception from the public as well as the media has been lukewarm. The large-scale ideological conference from December 8 to 10 that marked the formal inauguration of the society was only reported in one national-level newspaper, the Guangming Daily. And Mr Deng has been unable to recruit intellectuals who had not previously worked for the left-wing establishment. Meanwhile, Maoist writers have taken advantage of the apparent end of patriarch Mr Deng Xiaoping's anti-leftist campaign to ''make propaganda'' for their conservative cause. In various press articles, leftist cadres including Mr Lin Mohan and Mr Wei Wei have played up the concept of ''socialism, patriotism and collectivism being the central theme of the times''. The concept was first raised by party General Secretary Mr Jiang Zemin in Shanghai late last year. The Maoists are glad that Mr Jiang, considered the anointed successor of Mr Deng Xiaoping, has toed the conservative line by putting hardline ideology above market reforms. In numerous speeches last year, the patriarch had urged cadres to take economic construction and reform as the ''core'' of the work of the party. Since early December, however, Mr Deng Xiaoping has ended his purge of the leftist heads of media and ideology units.