On Saturday 11 August 2007, the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) (CPGB-ML) organised a special meeting in Saklatvala Hall to honour Jack Shapiro, a veteran of the communist movement, who has just turned 91. Jack has served the cause of communism for over seven decades. He has been a staunch supporter of the erstwhile Soviet Union, People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) and other socialist countries.
The cause of the Chinese revolution, the People’s Republic of China and friendship with the Chinese people have been and remain very dear to him and to his family. Jack’s brother, the late Comrade Michael Shapiro, lived and worked in China from 1950 until his death in 1986. Attached to the Xinhua News Agency, Michael entered Korea with the Chinese People’s Volunteers, shared weal and woe with the Korean people and their Chinese allies during the difficult days of the US imperialist led war against the Korean people, and writing many excellent articles in
(the organ of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB)). He also worked with the British Prisoners of War in the camps to make them repent of their crimes and win them to the cause of peace.
Because of his anti-imperialist work and his commitment to proletarian internationalism, Michael was accused of being a traitor by the ruling circles in Britain and the British government refused to renew his passport. He spent the rest of his life in China, where he married Liu Jinghe, a distinguished member of the Communist Party of China, devoting his life to the cause of the Chinese revolution and world communism.
Jack Shapiro, as well as his wife Mairie, a prominent communist in her own right, faced reactionary persecution and ostracism because of Michael’s stand, as indeed they did in their capacity as active members of the CPGB.
It was because of the meritorious services rendered by Jack and his family in the cause of the emancipation of the proletariat and the liberation of the oppressed peoples everywhere that the CPGB-ML decided to honour Jack and the Shapiro family in general. No only Jack and his nephew Roger (Michael’s son), but also the Chinese and Korean comrades were kind enough to accept the CPGB-ML’s invitation and attend this important event. The Embassy of the PRC in London was represented by Comrade Xu Bin, First Secretary, and his colleague Zhai Yanping, Third Secretary, while the Embassy of the DPRK sent Comrade Jong In Song to grace the occasion. Comrade He Dalong, from the London branch of the Xinhua News Agency, attended with two of his colleagues – Comrades Liu Jia and Jessica Sun. Roger Shapiro came all the way from Beijing so as to be present. Comrades Xu Bin, Jong In Song and He Dalong delivered brief messages, which are reproduced below, and presented gifts to Jack.
The meeting also received messages of greetings from Comrade Ma Hui, Deputy Director General, International Department of the Central Committee, Communist Party of China and Xue Yongxing, Regional Director and Editor-in-Chief Asia-Pacific Region, Xinhua News Agency.
The meeting started with the showing of a documentary film (featuring interviews with Jack and archive footage from Britain, China and Korea) introduced by Keith Bennett. It was followed by a short speech from Harpal Brar, who chaired the meeting. Then came messages from the Chinese and Korean comrades and a speech from Keith Bennett, a friend of China, the DPRK, and the Shapiro family.
The highlight of the meeting was a brief but spirited speech by Jack Shapiro, which is reproduced below.
Jack was presented, on behalf of the CPGB-ML and other friends of the Shapiro family, with a silver salver with the inscription
“To Comrade Jack Shapiro for lifelong service to the cause of communism”.
The CPGB-ML also conferred on Jack honorary membership of the party.
A floral tribute and message was also presented to Mairie Shapiro and received by Jack in her absence due to ill health.
The proceedings ended with the singing of the
, the hymn of the international proletariat, followed by a dinner in honour of Jack. There was plenty of opportunity for members of the audience to exchange views with each other, Jack and our Chinese and Korean guests. All in all it was a memorable occasion, which is bound to be remembered by everyone who attended it.
takes this opportunity of thanking the CPGB-ML for staging this event and thanks the Chinese and Korean comrades for their presence, greetings and gifts to Jack. We heartily thank Jack for accepting the honour and by personally attending the event.
Below are the speeches and messages made at the meeting. Space does not allow the inclusion of Keith Bennett’s speech in full; we reproduce extracts here, but the full speech can be found on our website: www.lalkar.org.
Introduction by Comrade Harpal Brar
Dear Jack and Roger, respected comrades from the PRC and the DPRK, comrades and friends:
This meeting is to honour Jack and the Shapiro family; more than that, this event is being held to educate and inspire a younger generation of our comrades with the example of dedicated work done over decades by Jack, Michael and Jack’s wife Mairie. Jack was born on the 14th of July 1916 – a few weeks after the Easter uprising in Ireland and during the inter-imperialist slaughter of the First World War. He grew up to witness the rise and glorious achievements of the USSR. In his youth he fought against racism, anti-semitism and fascism. He waged a vigorous struggle against revisionism as enshrined by the CPGB’s program ‘
British Road to Socialism’
. He understood, and fought against, opportunism recognising that its economic basis lay in the bought-off sections of the working class – the labour aristocracy.
Jack is a much-loved and admired veteran of the communist movement of Britain. He has been a staunch friend of China, the Communist Party of China and the Chinese revolution. Equally strongly, he has been, and continues to be, a great friend of the DPRK.
Jack is a man of many talents. He was a prominent figure in the Central British Fund which brought Jewish children, who had survived the death camps, to Britain to be fostered or adopted.
He was vice president, honorary treasurer and holder of the Medal of Honour of the Royal National Institute for the Deaf and vice president and chairman of the British Tinnitus Association. For his work in these charities he was at various times offered a Knighthood and a CBE. It is to Jack’s great credit that he turned down both the offers on the grounds that all his life had been spent struggling against the British Empire and to bring it down and he therefore could hardly to be expected to take the award.
Jack’s brother Michael worked with Phil Piratin, who was at the time a communist Member of Parliament. Michael was an expert on housing questions and a Secretary of the Stepney Tenants Defence League. After the Second World War he was one of the twelve communist councillors in Stepney.
In 1950, at the invitation of the Communist Party of China, Michael went to China to work for the Xinhua News Agency to help with the translation journalistic work. After U.S. imperialism had started its predatory war against the Korean people, Michael entered Korea as a Xinhua correspondent along with the Chinese Peoples Volunteers. From there he wrote excellent articles for the
and for the
– the paper of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Michael visited the British prisoners of war, lectured them and made them realise the crimes committed by imperialism against the Korean people and helping them to repent of their sins. This work of Michael stands as a shining beacon to us in the anti-war movement. British imperialism was enraged by Michael’s internationalist work. He was accused of being a traitor and his passport was never to be renewed, with the result that he spent all his life in China.
Following the Khrushchevite betrayal of socialism, in the polemics between the CPSU and the CPC, Michael sided with the line of the CPC. In doing so, Michael was prepared to sacrifice everything, including his relations with the CPGB and his close comrades. Neil Redfern correctly characterised Michael in the following terms:
“He was one of those rare beings whose revolutionary fire does not dim with age. For this, he deserves our respect
.” The Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping correctly referred to Michael Shapiro as
“a staunch international soldier and sincere friend of the Chinese people”.
Michael spent 36 years copy-editing English stories and doing translation work for the Department of Home News for overseas service of Xinhua.
Michael married Liu Jinghe, a prominent member of the CPC, a noted psychologist and an outstanding patriotic scientist. She had an ardent love for children and was a devout follower of the philosophy of dialectical materialism. Above all, she was an outstanding communist, a devoted wife and comrade, and a devoted mother. We are much honoured to have with us, and warmly welcome, her son Roger, who has come all the way from Beijing to be at this function. CPGB-ML is truly proud that people find it worthwhile to come all the way from Beijing to attend its functions.
Comrades and friends, from this brief description I have just given it must be clear to everyone that the Shapiros are an amazing family, who have supported the October revolution, the Chinese and Korean revolutions and socialism everywhere. They have stood by the national struggle of the oppressed peoples against imperialism. It is worth adding that they have throughout fought against Zionism and given their whole-hearted support to the Palestinian people for national liberation – and this at a time when, being of Jewish origin, it must have been exceptionally difficult for them to take that principled stance in the face of the propaganda barrage of Zionism and imperialism.
These then, comrades and friends, are the reasons for which we honour Jack, his brother Michael and the entire Shapiro family. Their services to the cause of communism and the liberation of humanity shall forever stay in the hearts of the proletariat and the oppressed peoples everywhere. With these words, I thank Jack for accepting our invitation to be with us today. I send our best wishes to Mairie, Jack’s wife, who was sadly unable to be with us for reasons of ill-health. I also take the opportunity to thank our honoured Chinese and Korean guests for taking the time to be present here today. And I thank all of you for your presence and your participation in this very special event.
Comrade Xu Bin, First
Secretary, Embassy of People’s Republic of China in UK
Comrades and friends I am very pleased to be here to attend this function in honour of comrade Jack Shapiro. As we all know, comrade Jack is a life-long communist member who dedicated his life to communist activities. And also his dear brother and our old friend, comrade Michael Shapiro, who the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping spoke of as a staunch international soldier and as a sincere friend of the Chinese people.
I would like to convey warm greetings to Jack Shapiro from my colleagues back in Beijing who have been your friends for many years and are very glad to see your activities in your belief in communism. The Chinese people will always remember all those friends who have spent decades for the Chinese cause of socialist construction and the revolution.
We present you with this traditional Chinese gift which is always presented to the good friends of the Chinese people [a gift of Chinese liquors, including a drink called Maoti].
Since we watched the film about Mr Jack Perry, I would like to say we honour Jack Perry as a very good friend and we remember his dedication to trade between our two countries, but I do not agree with some of the points made by the editor of the film and his translation of some of the events that took place in China. If you want to know something more about these events I would be glad to refer you to some web sites or other material.
Harpal Brar responded from the Chair by saying that we also do not agree with everything in the film. We showed it because of some of the interviews and archival footage it contained, but we ask people to take it critically, and not absorb every single sentence as truth.
Comrade He Dalong, Xinhua News Agency
It is a great pleasure to be here with all of you, especially with our distinguished old friend Jack Shapiro, as well as Harpal Brar, Keith Bennett and Roger Shapiro. When I started work with Xinhua in 1965 in Beijing, I learnt that there was a British expert working in Xinhua – that was Michael Shapiro, your brother. He is an old Chinese friend. In the 1950s he started work at Xinhua at the invitation of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, and went to Korea with the Chinese volunteers and worked together with the Korean and Chinese people. He published a lot of articles through Xinhua. He worked for Xinhua until 1986. The late Chinese leader, Deng Xiaoping, said Michael was a staunch international soldier and a sincere friend of the Chinese people.
For me, the first time I come here with you all, friends and comrades, it is a great pleasure. I wish Comrade Jack good health and a long life. My colleague, comrade Xue Yongxing, asked me to pass his sincere greetings to you and I take this opportunity to give you a special gift, a souvenir relating to the 2008 Olympics.
Comrade Jong In Song, representative of the Embassy of the DPRK
Comrades Jack Shapiro, Roger Shapiro, Mairie Shapiro and the late Michael Shapiro, I am very proud of your family. I have already informed my government about this meeting and about you all. Because of the Shapiro family we are here. We very much appreciate their contribution to the giant cause of progressive people.
The Fatherland Liberation War of 1950-53 [the Korean War], was a war between justice and injustice, between the almighty Americans and a young, weak Korea still only two years old. They still propagate that the north tried to invade the south, as the reason for the breaking out of the Korean War. But who provoked the Korean War? We appreciate the contribution of comrade Michael Shapiro and other progressive journalists, comrades and friends who helped the Koreans, when you did not expect payment or compensation for your services since you knew we were very poor, and told the world about the justness of our cause and revealed the truth about the war.
We were in a very difficult period. In the north Korean film entitled
you can see comrades from Great Britain who served in the British Army and were dispatched to Korea, to fight against the Korean people on the side of the Americans but knowing ours was a righteous war some of them moved to our side to help the Koreans by revealing the truth like comrade Michael Shapiro did.
I am very proud of the contributions of the Shapiro family and of being able to meet comrade Jack, but feel sad that I was not also able to meet comrade Michael while he was still alive. The Koreans are very appreciative of your dedicated efforts and service.
The Koreans are still fighting, still following the same road as we did in the Fatherland Liberation War. These two silver cups are presented with our sincere wish that you celebrate many more years of birthdays.
Comrade Keith Bennett
Dearest Jack and Roger, esteemed comrades from the People’s Republic of China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, comrades and friends:
First, I want to express my deep thanks to the comrades of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) for their initiative to organise this meeting and celebration of one of Britain’s greatest and most respected communists.
Comrade Jack Shapiro is an outstanding Marxist-Leninist and a lifelong fighter for the working class and the oppressed, who has held fast to his principles through thick and thin, and through every twist and turn, and who still now works hard, is generous with his time, wisdom and resources, and who, without mincing his words, is always tolerant, encouraging, and, indeed, modest towards us younger comrades. No matter how difficult the times, and many of them have been very difficult, even bleak, he is a comrade whose complete confidence in humanity’s brilliant communist future has never wavered.
One of the crimes of modern revisionism is that it separates the working class from its history. So, we wanted to bring Jack here to honour him, to show our love and respect for him. But we also wanted to do something that is even more important – we wanted to enable the younger generations to learn from his experience and example.
The class struggle throws up many new situations, but in approaching and defining our line of march, we do not start from a blank sheet. The works of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin are there; the works of Chairman Mao, President Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara and Dimitrov; the experiences and achievements of the socialist countries, especially the Soviet Union and China; the life and work of comrades like Jack, his wife Mairie, his late brother Michael and the other members of his family. Together, all this represents the collective wisdom of the international communist movement, which we have a duty to study and apply. This is the greatest thing that the communists bring to the working class movement as a whole. …
[In November 1917] the Great October Socialist Revolution, the defining event of the century, indeed of human history to date, was victorious. This earth shattering event, ripping one sixth of the globe out of the clutches of imperialism and creating the first human society, since the dawn of slavery, not based on exploitation and oppression, could not but make the greatest impression throughout the world, could not but act as a beacon to everything youthful and progressive, as oppressed humanity sought to find its way from darkness to light.
As Comrade Mao Zedong said:
“The salvoes of the October Revolution brought us Marxism-Leninism.”
It brought it not only to China, but also to the East End of London, a place of grinding poverty, the scene of the strike struggles of the dockers and the matchgirls, the birthplace of New Unionism. Here were to be found English, Irish and Jewish proletarians, sailors from China, India and Somalia. Together, they created a vibrant working class community and culture, forged in the struggle for survival and the class struggle.
Here was where Jack grew up and became a communist. As a little boy, he would have been aware of the general strike of 1926 and the terrible privations that were inflicted on the heroic mining communities. As the 1930s dawned, capitalist crisis saw important sections of the bourgeoisie turn towards fascism, seeking to impose open, terroristic dictatorship on the working class and demagogically seeking to divide the class with vile racist ideas, specifically and especially anti-Semitism.
Lenin had aptly described Tsarist Russia as a
“prison house of nations,”
and, indeed, it had been above all the anti-Semitic pogroms that had driven Jewish people from Russia, Poland, Lithuania and elsewhere to seek a better life in cities such as London.
Faced with poverty, exploitation, racism and the threat of fascism, how, therefore, could the advanced proletarians not be inspired by the fact that in the Soviet Union, the workers and peasants were building a new society, based on meeting their needs, were following a foreign policy of peace not war, and where advanced culture was thriving as never before, including the rich culture of the Jewish people and all the other hitherto oppressed and downtrodden nations and nationalities across that vast land.
Like many of his contemporaries, as a teenager, Jack joined the Young Communist League and later the Communist Party of Great Britain. Unlike many, to paraphrase the words of our anthem,
, he remains standing in his place. He chose to march down a certain road and over more than seven decades, he has never looked back.
Jack came to know and work with many of the greatest leaders of our communist movement, like Harry Pollitt, Shapurji Saklatvala, after whom this hall is named, and Willie Gallacher. As we have seen in the film, he was at the Battle of Cable Street and he always actively defended his community and the class from fascism and other class enemies. …
This is just a little of what I mean by the necessity to study and learn from our rich history and our veteran comrades like Jack. We have no need to reinvent the wheel. …
Internationalism is … intrinsic to communism and so to Jack and the other comrades in his family. Jack’s wife and close comrade Mairie, joined the communist movement in Poland, at a time when the Party was illegal and underground.
But above all the Shapiro family came to cast in their lot with the Chinese revolution. … [I]n 1949, immediately after the founding of the People’s Republic, Michael was one of four comrades who stepped forward in response to the appeal for assistance made by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China to Harry Pollitt. He left for Beijing, the city that was to become his home until his death in 1986.
Shortly after his arrival in China, US imperialism started the Korean War. When the war reached to the very borders of China, and placed the newly born People’s Republic in jeopardy, the Chinese people responded to the call of Chairman Mao and the Party to:
“Resist US aggression, Aid Korea, Defend the Motherland and Safeguard our homes”.
When the Chinese People’s Volunteers marched into Korea, Michael, now attached to the Xinhua News Agency, whose representatives are especially welcome tonight, marched with them.
Whilst in Korea, Michael had some contact with the British Prisoners of War, giving them political talks, facilitating their letters home (indeed many of the PoWs were at best semi-literate and Michael helped them to learn to read and write properly) and helped them organise their social and cultural life – perhaps so far the only cricket teams to have existed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea!
Like US imperialism, British imperialism was incensed, not only by their defeat at the hands of the heroic Korean and Chinese peoples, but also that so many of the PoWs realised how they had been misled into participating in an unjust and aggressive war.
… Speaking from the comfort and safety of the House of Commons, MPs demanded that Michael be hanged as a traitor should he ever return to Britain and the government refused to renew his passport. For Jack and Mairie, with statements such as that being made in parliament, and with the press being predictably hysterical and vile, let me just say, with considerable understatement, that these were not easy times.
… Michael settled down in China, continued to work for Xinhua and also participated in revising and editing the English translations of Chairman Mao’s Selected Works, along with his poetry. He married an eminent Chinese child psychologist, Comrade Liu Jinghe, who had first joined the communist movement whilst studying in the United States of America and was one of the first patriotic scientists to return home after the founding of New China. …
Michael and Jinghe had two sons, Jack’s beloved nephews, one of whom we are so pleased has flown all the way from Beijing especially to honour us with his presence tonight. …
Comrade Deng Xiaoping gave a correct and worthy assessment when he praised Michael Shapiro as “
a staunch international soldier and sincere friend of the Chinese people”.
It is an accolade that belongs equally to Jack.
Of course, Jack’s internationalism is by no means confined to his staunch support for the Soviet Union, China, Korea and other socialist countries, as important as that is.
He forged a particular friendship with Comrade E.F. Hill, the founder and Chairman of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist), and for many years wrote as the British correspondent for their newspaper “Vanguard”, which he continues to distribute to interested comrades.
From the very start, Jack rejected the ‘
British Road to Socialism’
, with its insidious thesis of a supposed
“socialist colonial policy
“. Jack worked with the late Trinidadian communist, Claudia Jones, who was also employed by Xinhua for a time, and who started the Notting Hill Carnival, and many others, to bring solidarity with the anti-colonial struggles and the national liberation movements to the fore. He has never ducked the question of the impact of imperialism on the working class movement through its creation of a labour aristocracy based on a small proportion of imperialist super profits.
Jack has always resolutely supported the struggle of the Irish people against British imperialism. Indeed, this was one of his formative influences. …
Above all, Jack deserves the highest respect and praise for his staunch opposition to zionism. Jack is rightly proud of his Jewish heritage, of the Jewish people’s truly immense contributions to human culture and civilisation. Indeed, one reason why he continues to uphold the Soviet Union of Comrade Stalin is because it was the Red Army under J.V. Stalin’s leadership that saved the Jews from genocide and it was also under Stalin’s leadership that Jewish culture was able to flourish as never before. But, like his long-time friend and comrade Jack Gaster, who passed away earlier this year, Jack has always considered the attempt to use zionism to create an imperialists’ cats paw in the Middle East as not only a monstrous injustice to the Palestinian people, but also as a dead end and a trap for the Jewish people. Those of you who read the
will see that, in his periodic letters published there, Jack continues to speak out in support of the peoples of Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq, and their resistance movements. He has encouraged people to read Harpal Brar and Ella Rule’s book on imperialism in the Middle East, describing it to me as the best book on its subject. As Chairman Mao said of Dr. Norman Bethune, all this represents
“the spirit of internationalism, the spirit of communism”,
from which we must all learn.
As we have seen, Jack has never let adversity stand in his way and that extends to his approach to illness and disability. For a very long time, he has suffered from tinnitus, …
Modern revisionism is another adversity that Jack has sought to overcome. Although often disappointed by the results, he has never failed to take a positive and supportive attitude to all attempts to rebuild the Marxist-Leninist party, that in this country was undermined and finally liquidated altogether. Despite all the setbacks, I think Jack has never wavered in his certainty that the Party can and must be rebuilt.
In the mid-1970s, the Communist Party of China published an editorial entitled,
“Proletarians are revolutionary optimists”.
It is a good way to describe Jack. Among the many books to be found on the shelves at his home is a well-worn copy of Nikolai Ostrovsky’s great novel,
How the steel was tempered
. In Jack, we see a truly heroic figure of the kind described there, one who can justly say:
“All my life and all my strength have been devoted to the finest cause on earth, the liberation of mankind”.
Thank you, Jack.
Comrade Jack Shapiro
Dear comrades and friends, a lot has been said about me and especially about my family, however the most important member of that family is not here today, she is lying in bed at home but without her support for 73 years I doubt that I could have performed any of the actions that the comrades have been kind enough to remember about me.
The main thing that Mairie and myself think about, as we look at the world today, is that in spite of American imperialism’s plan to swallow all of the world, resistance to that is growing and taking place in places where the Americans themselves could never have believed – in their own backyard.
The great inspiration today must be that north Korea is now working so closely for an affinity with south Korea to reunite the peoples of Korea as they deserve to be. The north Koreans are an inspiration to the world. They have been surrounded, badgered and bullied, browbeaten and pushed around in ways that no other country in the world has and yet they have stood steadfast in their belief, in their ideas, in the belief that Korea will be united as a strong country and an inspiration to all the peoples of the world.
The strength of our family connection with China manifests itself with the fact that Roger is here today having come thousands of miles just to be here amongst us and to be able to participate in this gathering.
The Chinese people have been through enormous difficulties and are now succeeding in developing a country, a socialist country with their own specific characteristics. As Chairman Mao said in 1949, they got off their knees, they are standing up, they are struggling and they will succeed in building a socialist country that this world will see as an example for all the peoples of the world to follow.
In Britain we have the oldest bourgeoisie in the world; they are cunning, rapacious and know all the tricks in the book and yet they have never yet managed to persuade everybody to abandon the principles and ideas of going forward to socialism through a communist party that we should be proud of. I have been through four communist parties; I have been expelled from two of them. The pride I have of being here today, through the persuasion of comrade Harpal Brar who worked very hard to get me to come. I feel I am just an ordinary sort of fellow.
I have studied Marxism-Leninism and tried to live my life by certain principles which I hold dear. I have had the wonderful support of my wife. I have also had the inspiration and knowledge of my brother and his two young sons. You mentioned Jinghe. She was more than what people know about her. She was one of the founders of the study of the psychology of children, of methods of helping children to study in ways that were new, inspirational and definitely of a socialist character. She produced books to show them how to learn english easily and to study mathematics easily. When she came to England, she received praise at Cambridge University for her wonderful work in developing ideas for developing children in China in a way that had never been done before. She was a great woman, an inspiration, and did a marvellous job of bringing up two wonderful sons.
A lot has been said about me. Harpal will be aware that a lot of it I did not want him to say. I am not a boastful person; in fact I consider myself a fairly modest person. I do not try to emblazon what I am doing, but the struggle that we must pursue – the class struggle – must always be in our minds. The leadership for that struggle must be based on Marxism-Leninism. In my mind, in this day and age, we have the great good fortune to have a comrade like Harpal Brar who can write those wonderful books, and those wonderful articles in
that are gathered together into the books. They deserve your study, deserve your readership, deserve that you should take your principles from them and carry on the great struggle that Keith Bennett says I am involved in – the liberation of mankind.
To enable us to liberate mankind, we must liberate ourselves and we can only do that by pursuing the class struggle and studying Marxism-Leninism so that we become what Lenin said were true revolutionaries that will carry forward the revolution until socialism is built even in Great Britain.