The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) (CPGB-ML) launched the Hands off China campaign at a well-attended spirited and militant rally in central London on the evening of Saturday 19 July.
The speakers were Comrades Harpal Brar, Chairman of the CPGB-ML; Jack Shapiro, veteran British communist and staunch friend of China since the 1930s; Avtar Singh Jouhl, General Secretary of the Indian Workers’ Association (GB) (IWA GB); Kojo Amoo Gottfried, President of the Ghana-China Friendship Association and former Ambassador of Ghana to the People’s Republic of China; and Keith Bennett, a long-time friend of China and specialist in Chinese politics and history.
Messages of support were also received from Comrades Isabel Crook, veteran communist revolutionary who has lived some 70 of her 92 years in China; and Mohammed Arif, General Secretary of the British Afro-Asian Solidarity Organisation (BAASO); as well as from a CPGB-ML member living and working in Beijing. Representatives of the Chinese Embassy tended the meeting as honoured guests.
Following the speeches from the platform, a lively and enthusiastic discussion took place with contributions from party comrades, trade unionists, members of the Bangladeshi community and others.
The following resolution was proposed and unanimously adopted:
“This launch meeting of the Hands off China campaign extends its condolences to the Chinese people in respect of the Sichuan earthquake disaster. We also express our highest appreciation to the leaders of China, the Communist Party of China, the People’s Liberation Army and the Chinese people for the extraordinary, heroic, widespread and thoroughgoing recovery that is taking place. This response demonstrates the unity of will of the Chinese people and leadership, and also the inherent superiority of socialism over capitalism.
“We also take this opportunity to offer our full support and best wishes for the coming Beijing Olympic Games, which we are certain will be a tremendous success, in spite of the desperate imperialist attempts to subvert them.”
The meeting was reported by the Xinhua News Agency, and their story was subsequently republished by national and local newspapers and other media all over China. Besides, Comrade Harpal was interviewed by several leading daily newspapers in China.
Hands off China will hold a meeting to celebrate China’s national day on Saturday 4 October at Saklatvala Hall in Southall from 6pm. All friends of the Chinese revolution are welcome.
Lalkar is pleased to print below edited excerpts from the speeches at the 19 July meeting.
Why are we trying to start an organisation called Hands Off China? China has done no harm to anybody. China for over 150 years was the victim of foreign aggression and Chinese people suffered greatly. They only began to build a life for themselves following the liberation of China in October 1949 – an event that enthused progressive humanity everywhere. China has come a long way since then. China has built a strong economy and has international relationships with all manner of countries with different social systems. All it wants is to be left in peace to build a prosperous society for the Chinese people. Who could disagree with that?. Yet the imperialist powers are trying to denigrate them.
The very people who colonised, or semi-colonised, China – on whose hands there is the blood of hundreds of thousands of Chinese people – today try to allege ‘lack of respect for human rights’ and ‘lack of democracy’ in China. The imperialists never thought of democracy for Hong Kong when they ruled it. They occupied it for the ‘democratic right’ to use it as a drug-running centre. They will tell you they are fighting a war in Afghanistan to prevent drug proliferation, yet Britain waged three opium wars against China, subjugated it and forced people to take opiates.
The most important human rights are the right to life, to employment and to have sufficient food, clothing and shelter. Also sovereign nations have the right not to be invaded by foreigners; to be allowed to get on with their own societies. Imperialism respects none of these rights. Since 2003, Anglo-American imperialism with its satellites has invaded Iraq. They have killed over a million people. 2 million have been forced out of the country and over 2 million are displaced internally. The entire infrastructure of Iraq – its health system, water and sewage facilities, its education system – have been destroyed. Unemployment is above 50%. Yet the journalistic community in Britain keeps silent. Instead they talk about the troubles in Tibet! Just over a dozen people were killed in Lhasa, mainly by counter-revolutionary followers of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army responded with commendable restraint. But regardless of whose fault it is, how come a dozen people killed in Tibet is much more newsworthy than over a million killed in Iraq and Afghanistan? British journalists see themselves as seekers of truth who cannot be bribed. It is said, however: “You cannot hope to bribe, thank God, or twist an English journalist. But seeing what unbribed he will do, there is really is no occasion to”.
China does fantastic things that cannot be denied – the latest example being its response to the Sichuan earthquake that claimed the lives of over 70,000 people, with a further 100,000 wounded and over a million rendered homeless. Yet within a matter of weeks the Chinese government, the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army showed the world how rescue operations can be conducted by a government , by a Party and by an army which is at one with its people.
Contrast that with the richest country in the world, the self-professed guardian of liberty, democracy and freedom, namely the United States of America. Three years Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. Thousands of people were had to leave their homes. Even there are derelict houses that have not been rebuilt, all belonging to poor people, mainly black. Cars that were hurled on to roof tops, or trees, are still there. They are not rebuilding because it is an opportunity to get this prime real estate site for the so-called developers, the land sharks. Everyone was left to look after themselves and, as happens under the conditions of capitalism, the rich were able to get away, did not suffer loss of life and were able to claim on their insurance policies. Poor people were the ones to suffer and, instead of rescuing them, the local police and the National Guard had orders to shoot on sight to prevent them even leaving the area. But when there was a horrendous disaster in China: did you see any scenes of Chinese trying to loot grocery stores? No, there was no need to because they were being looked after. In a matter of weeks the Chinese government made sure that millions of houses were being built to re-house these people. The Financial Times said that the Chinese government was able to do all this because it is “what authoritarian governments do at their best”. Namely, they rescued people! Well, if rescuing people and looking after their interests is authoritarianism, may I say, with all of you, Long Live Authoritarianism in China.
It is private interests whose fury has been aroused by the fact that China is building a socialist society and that the Chinese are looking after ordinary people. You don’t even have to build socialism to arouse this fury. It is sufficient to try to exercise a certain modicum of independence from imperialism for you to become from that day on a marked person. Saddam Hussein was not building socialism but he did a lot of things for his people.
Imperialist campaigns, whether against Zimbabwe, whether against the Ba’ath regime in Iraq, whether against the People’s Republic of China or any number of other places, have nothing to do with human rights and democracy but everything to do with their desire to dominate the whole world. But since the October Revolution the world has changed. Socialism may have temporarily been defeated in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, but socialism still lives in a number of other countries. As a trend, showing the future of humanity, socialism lives in the hearts of millions of people all around the world, working to get that kind of society which at one time existed in countries like the Soviet Union and which now exists in countries like China, and a number of other places like Cuba, the DPRK, etc.
One thing is sure. They cannot do with China what they were able to do with Iraq. There is only one way they are able to overwhelm other people and that is by persuading them to disarm. Iraq was attacked because Iraq had no nuclear weapons. North Korea is not attacked because it has. China is a powerful country. Should China be attacked, imperialism would live to regret it. The Chinese people would give a very good account of themselves. They would stand up as one and fight against foreign aggressors until these are effaced from this earth – not only in China but elsewhere as well. They should not be surprised that their system ceases to exist should they attack the People’s Republic of China.
Do not expect to see reports of this meeting in the British media. Of course there will not be. But don’t think we are without friends. We very much hope that the comrade who represents the Xinhua news agency will be reporting these proceedings in the Chinese press. Who cares whether the British media report on this meeting or not, when 1.3bn Chinese will read about it?
May I through the comrade from the Chinese embassy, Comrade Xu Bin, and the comrade from Xinhua, say how pleased we are, and every progressive all over the world is, at the veto that the Chinese delegate exercised over Zimbabwe. We think that all the people who are under attack from imperialism have to stick together. Therein lies our salvation.
In my student days, Japan invaded China. The terrible scenes described in the newspapers aroused my interest and indignation. Soon after, Lady Cripps, the wife of Sir Stafford Cripps, launched a campaign which raised the slogan ‘Hands off China!’ I understood that the struggle against Japanese imperialism being led by the Chinese Communist Party was an integral part of the world struggle against fascism and imperialism.
In 1946, the Britain China Friendship Association was reformed and we carried on giving information about the struggle of the Chinese people as the revolution proceeded to victory.
In 1949, the Communist Party of Great Britain was asked by the Communist Party of China to send people to help the Xinhua New Agency develop its English language section. My brother Michael was one of the four people who went to China. In 1963, I visited China and spent nine weeks travelling the length and breadth of the country and meeting a wide variety of people. What enthused me was that everywhere I went the people were proud of what they were achieving and lauded the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.
It is imperative that the truth about China is proclaimed constantly in the face of the slanderous lies and misinformation that passes for news about China. We have as an example a country of 1.3 billion people who started from scratch and are building their own way to socialism. This economy now surpasses all others in being able to withstand the shocks inflicted by the crises of the capitalist world.
42 years ago I too was a founder member of the Society for Anglo Chinese Understanding (SACU), which we formed at a time when there were attempts to marginalise China and prevent it playing its role in the world.
My own relations with China go back to 1959 when I was invited as a student leader to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Chinese Revolution. The next time I visited China was in 1961. I was impressed by the fact that it was a country with 22% of the world’s population and they were feeding their people. Every year the population was increasing by as much as the population of Ghana yet they were feeding everyone. There was a lot of propaganda against China, yet clearly they had to be doing something right.
Ghana at that time supported China and the One China policy and the Ghana China Friendship Treaty was signed. I eventually became Ghana’s ambassador to China, and spent many years there. When I retired and went back home, I became Chairman of Ghana China Friendship Organisation, whose greetings I bring you.
The time has come when it is most necessary to launch an organisation such as Hands Off China to counter all-pervasive anti-China propaganda. China is playing a major role against imperialism; it stands for the downtrodden and against under-development. It is necessary to fight enemies of China.
Having been at the founding meeting of SACU I am very happy that I was able to participate here today.
IWA(GB) has a long tradition back to 1949 of supporting China. In 1949: 2 years after India obtained its independence from the British Raj, China overthrew feudalism and imperialism to form the People’s Republic of China. US imperialism and other imperialists didn’t like that at all. The US even considered attacking China with nuclear bombs. From 1949 on US followed a policy of China containment. It encircled China to try to stifle it in every possible way.
At the time of the China containment policy back in 60s the IWA(GB) consistently worked in support of China, and only when China occupied its rightful seat in United Nation did Friends of China and other societies and campaigns calm down. We should have continued with all those organisations and societies irrespective of China taking its Security Council seat.
It is definitely therefore time for formation of Hands Off China.
Although the China containment policy as well as other tricks of the imperialist trade have failed, they do not cease to try other tricks. Currently they are trying to exploit the Olympics in China. We need to be active in putting the record straight.
I suggest that trade union branches and other organisations be allowed to affiliate to Hands Off China and comrades in unions at their next branch meeting can get greetings sent to the Chinese Olympics, get a card signed, and also take up issues such as the sovereignty of China being respected, pointing out that to invite the Dalai Lama to address the British parliament is a breach of the requirement of international law that every country’s sovereignty be respected.
At the time of the earthquake, the IWA(GB) in the Midlands, in the foundries, wherever our people work, made a collection to send to China for Sichuan. This was done not as a favour because our support is mutual – we are supporting the cause of the working class on the international scale, and we are supporting the interests of 1 billion people in India. We are doing it for ourselves.
When the Communist Party of China came to power in 1949, China, despite its splendid and ancient culture and civilisation, was one of the poorest and most wretched societies on earth.
The cause of China’s misery was feudalism, warlordism and bureaucrat capitalism. But above all it was imperialism.
China was very profitable for imperialism. One historian wrote that the biggest financial blow ever suffered by British capitalism in a single day was when the People’s Liberation Army entered Shanghai.
With the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese people had lifted from their shoulders what Chairman Mao had aptly described as the three great mountains that weighed as a heavy burden on them – imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.
Over the ensuing 59 years, the first generation of the collective leadership of the PRC, China banished famine, solved the basic problem of feeding, clothing, educating and housing the people on the basis of self-reliance, developed its own nuclear deterrent, launched space satellites, provided a framework of basic medical care to a peasantry that had never known it through the barefoot doctor system, and provided massive support to people throughout the world in their struggles against imperialism, not least in Korea and Vietnam.
Over the last 30 years, China has registered double digit economic growth almost every year. No other economy in the world can compare with this. 400 million people have been lifted out of poverty. The effects of this are felt not only in China. Today, economies throughout Africa and Latin America are reversing a generation of decline and entering onto a path of growth largely because of their engagement with China’s booming economy.
The imperialist media never tires of attacking China over its so-called “human rights violations”. But no greater contribution is being made to the enhancement of the real human rights of hundreds of millions of people than is being made by the Chinese government and the CPC.
As the Pentagon grasps, the rise of China poses the greatest challenge to the US design for global hegemony.
Let’s think about the changed situation in Latin America. Since the US proclaimed the Monroe Doctrine in the early nineteenth century it took Latin America to be its backyard and arrogated to itself the right to drown in rivers of blood any challenge to its hegemony. Today, the situation is almost completely changed. Only Colombia may be said to be unequivocally in the American camp. The Monroe Doctrine is effectively dead – primarily a result of the struggles of the Latin American peoples themselves. But it is also important that Venezuela has an alternative market for its oil, Brazil for its soy, Argentina for its wheat, etc. To be able to establish such relations of equality and mutual benefit with China is the single biggest external support to Latin America’s struggle for independent development.
China is not a perfect society. The Chinese comrades tell us all the time that their country is only in the primary stage of socialism. The best days of the People’s Republic are still to come. Yet already people, not just in the oppressed nations, but increasingly here in the imperialist heartlands, too, can start to see that a better alternative exists.
So, the goal we have set ourselves of defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China is not simply something we seek to do as friends of China. This work is the cutting edge of the international class struggle and it has a bearing on all the other contradictions at play on the international scene, on the people’s struggle in every part of the world. This work is our internationalist duty.
[For the full text of speeches made at this meeting, see the website of Hands Off China www.handsoffchina.org.]