On Saturday 3 October, the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) (CPGB-ML) and Hands off China organised a militant rally and lively social to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
Well over 100 working and progressive people of many nationalities packed into Saklatvala Hall in Southall, west London, to participate in a rally with speeches, followed by a social evening in which excellent food and drink were served.
The proceedings of the rally were opened and chaired by Comrade Harpal Brar, Chairman of the CPGB-ML and of Hands off China, as well as editor of Lalkar, who introduced the guests of honour: Comrade Ma Xin, Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy; Comrade Wang Yingchun, Second Secretary of the Chinese Embassy; and Comrade He Dalong, Bureau Chief of the Xinhua News Agency, accompanied by three of his colleagues; along with the main speakers, George Galloway MP, veteran communist Jack Shapiro, Dr Jenny Clegg, academic and anti-war activist, and Keith Bennett from the CPGB-ML Central Committee.
Following the playing of the Chinese national anthem as well as The East is Red, the famous Chinese revolutionary song in honour of Mao Zedong, Harpal said that we celebrate the victory of the Chinese revolution with great joy, as a world historic event. As Comrade Mao Zedong had observed, it was the salvoes of the October Revolution that brought Marxism-Leninism to China. For the first time, the Chinese people embarked on a road that led them to success.
Harpal denounced the British and other imperialist powers who had reduced China to semi-colonial status: “It makes me sick to hear the British ruling class claiming there are no human rights in China,” he said, going on to note how Britain had collaborated with every other imperialist power, including Japan, in the rape and pillage of China.
The Chinese people, he said, had won the human right to run their own affairs after more than 100 years of struggle. And, when the Chinese people stood up, this was something that reverberated throughout Asia. Mao’s writings on people’s war had become something that every warrior of every national liberation movement throughout the world carried in their pocket. Despite all their technology, people’s war could defeat any imperialism. This had been proved in the Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese revolutions and was today being proved in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine.
Comrade Ma Xin extended greetings to the meeting from the Chinese comrades, saying they were very pleased and honoured to be present and paying tribute to all friends of China and all those who have been supporting China’s revolution and construction. In his view, the biggest change that had taken place in China over the last six decades was the improvement in the people’s living standards. Poverty eradication was the most important human right and in one generation China had lifted nearly 400 million people out of abject poverty. He quoted Chinese President Hu Jintao’s speech on the 60th anniversary, two days previously, saying that developments of the last sixty years duly testified that only socialism could save China and that China would continue on the socialist path.
Comrade Jenny Clegg was introduced by Harpal as the author of a recent book on China’s global strategy, a lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire, and also the daughter of Comrade Arthur Clegg, who had organised the China Campaign Committee after Japan invaded China in the 1930s.
Jenny took the rise of China as her theme, saying that this rapid process was concentrating peoples’ minds on the future shape of the world. The founding of the People’s Republic had, she said, set an “early limit” on US global hegemony. But China was still engaged in a complex struggle against imperialism and was still the main target for the USA’s vast arsenal of nuclear weapons. China’s rise, she said, was promoting the “rise of the rest”, namely the great mass of developing countries.
Messages were read to the meeting from the three distinguished Patrons of Hands off China, Comrades Avtar Singh Jouhl, Isabel Crook and Kojo Amoo Gottfried, all of whom were overseas.
Comrade Avtar, General Secretary of the Indian Workers’ Association (IWA GB), extended greetings to the Communist Party and government of China, praised China’s rapid economic progress, and warned against renewed imperialist attempts to create discord between India and China, including by using their agent the Dalai Lama.
Comrade Isabel Crook, lifelong revolutionary communist, wrote from Beijing:
“David Crook and I came to China in late 1947 with a recommendation from the CPGB [Communist Party of Great Britain]. We came here as a team – he as a journalist and myself as a student of anthropology. We were smuggled into the Liberated Areas and given the opportunity to observe the land reform and the life of ordinary farming folk. The two great lessons we learned from our eight months in the village was that the liberation of China was being won not only through its great military victory but also by a major economic victory, whereby farming folk were being led to take ownership of the land into their own hands.
“Then came the biggest change in our lives. Victory of the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] was in sight and the CPC [Communist Party of China] needed to train personnel who could speak English for the future diplomatic service. We were asked by the CPC to stay and teach English in a small school they had set up in a village – and we readily agreed. This meant we were no longer just observers, but participants in the Chinese revolution. This is why – instead of just staying for a year or two, we stayed for the rest of our lives. Over the past 60 years we had the opportunity to take part in China’s lengthy, arduous efforts to build not just a better society in China, but a better world…
“I congratulate the CPGB(ML) for its active and comradely support of China. And especially for its efforts to study, understand and publicise this rich experience.”
Writing from Ghana, Comrade Kojo Amoo Gottfried, former ambassador to China and currently Chairman of the Ghana China Friendship Association (GHACHIFA), recalled his first visit to China for the 10th anniversary celebrations in 1959 and stressed the importance of Sino-African friendship and unity:
“China is the great hope of the developing countries, who yearn to be free of imperialist hegemony, oppression and bullying. That is why everyone who opposes imperialism must do their best to support China. That is why the work you are doing is so important.”
Brief remarks were also made by Comrade Hardev Dhillon, President of the IWA(GB), who said his organisation was very proud to support Hands off China. Imperialism, he said, was on its death bed, but it was still carrying out its dirty work against China. He said that India should not make the same mistake it made in 1962, when it had allowed the United States to inveigle it into a disastrous war with China. Any differences between the two Asian neighbours should be resolved by talking. The IWA had been accused of treachery at the time of the 1962 war, but in reality they were the true Indian patriots.
Introducing Comrade George Galloway, Harpal Brar said that his expulsion from the Labour Party for having taken his side with the oppressed people was a badge of honour and we were delighted that he had been elected to parliament for the Respect party by defeating the incumbent Labour candidate.
George went on to electrify the audience with his characteristic oratory and anti-imperialist spirit. Saying that he had been a friend of China since the age of 14, he declared that the victory of the Chinese revolution and the founding of the People’s Republic was one of the very greatest events in human history.
He had, he said, three reasons for having always counted himself as a friend of the People’s Republic.
First, because anti-imperialism was the “cornerstone, the most important thing in the world for me”, something he had first learned from his Irish grandfather, and he continued:
“The east is red. The sun is rising in the east. And they [the imperialists] had better get used to it.”
The liberation of more than one billion people from imperialism is worthy of celebrating, irrespective of the political colour of the Chinese government, he continued.
“That is their business and their business alone. It is not our job to issue political certificates of approval to those who overthrow imperial rule…The days when foreign countries could order China what to do are gone and gone forever.”
George’s second reason was that he considered that the collapse of the Soviet Union had been a disaster for the world. The existence of a sole superpower was profoundly unhealthy. With the rise of China, the ability of the United States to act unilaterally in the world would be increasingly constrained. Already, it was acting as a roadblock to the preparation of war against Iran.
The third reason, Comrade Galloway explained, was that, in his view, China is a socialist country. Although problems existed, such as wealth and regional disparity, the Chinese state saw it as its responsibility to deal with them.
“I trust the Chinese government to solve its problems better than I trust Gordon Brown and New Labour.”
In conclusion, George borrowed from a phrase associated with the great Scottish Bolshevik and ‘Red Clydesider’ John MacLean to declare:
“All Hail the People’s Republic!”
Veteran communist revolutionary and Honorary President of the CPGB-ML and Hands off China, Comrade Jack Shapiro, recalled that at its founding the Communist Party of China had less than 60 members, but today it was leading the building of socialism in what had been one of the poorest countries in the world, “so there is hope for all the poor peoples of the world”.
“We owe China a huge debt for having come out from imperialist exploitation to be a beacon showing the world to a socialist future.”
The CPGB-ML, said Comrade Jack, would also forge a party in this country that will overthrow capitalism and bring socialism.
The final speaker in the formal part of the meeting was Comrade Keith Bennett for the CPGB-ML Central Committee. Much of Comrade Keith’s speech was based on articles already carried in Lalkar as well as in the CPGB-ML paper Proletarian. These articles may also be read online: http://www.cpgb-ml.org/index.php?secName=proletarian&subName=display&art=540 and http://www.lalkar.org/issues/contents/sep2009/hoc.html
Towards the end of his speech, Comrade Keith noted:
“In China, the oppressed and down-trodden rallied behind a communist party. They overcame innumerable and indescribable hardships. But finally they were successful. They sent domestic and foreign exploiters packing and working people set up a state and a society in which they are the masters and the government exists to serve them. It is a matter of which class holds power and hence whose needs are considered paramount.
“In celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, as with the Great October Socialist Revolution that created the Soviet Union, this is by far the most important lesson for working people in Britain.”
And, as all comrades rose to sing the Internationale, this really defined the theme of the evening. It was a magnificent expression of solidarity with socialist China but equally it was another important step forward in building the revolutionary working-class movement, the forces of Marxism Leninism, in Britain.