On 21 December the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) held a public meeting at Saklatvala Hall, Southall, West London, to mark the 120th anniversary of the birth of Comrade Mao Zedong, the great leader of the Chinese people. Apart from some opening remarks by Comrade Harpal Brar who chaired the meeting, the main presentations were made by Carlos Martinez, the Secretary of Hands Off China, and Keith Bennett speaking on behalf of the CPGB-ML.
Keith outlined the outstanding achievements of Comrade Mao Zedong in several fields, particularly his contribution to the art of people’s war and the struggle against Khrushchevite revisionism. Under his leadership, said Keith, the Communist Party of China pursued a policy which pinned down the Japanese forces as a result of which the latter were not in a position to attack the Soviet Union. This meant that the Soviet Union did not have to fight on two fronts in the Second World War, so that Comrade Mao’s anti-Japanese war made an invaluable contribution to the Red Army’s victory over the Nazi hordes.
Soon after the liberation of China, under the leadership of Comrade Mao Zedong, the Communist Party of China sent hundreds of thousands of volunteers to fight on the side of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea during the Korean War with the Chinese sacrificing nearly 200,000 lives rendering this selfless fraternal assistance to the Korean people.
Chairman Mao also took great interest in the fight of the Afro-Americans for racial equality, in connection with which he issued two important statements in their support, thus giving impetus to the movement of the black people of America who had never stopped suffering from the effects of slavery.
During the Vietnam war, under the leadership of Mao Zedong, China sent 150,000 technicians and soldiers to Vietnam who, among other things, manned anti-aircraft guns against US bombers, thus freeing the Vietnamese forces to concentrate on other fronts in their war for liberation.
Carlos apologised for the fact that ” Giving a short speech about Mao Zedong is a fairly difficult job. The man was politically active for over half a century; he lived through the nationalist Chinese Revolution of 1911; the formation of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921; the revolutionary civil war of 1925-27; the revolutionary civil war of 1927-36; the war of resistance against Japan; the war of liberation; the birth of New China in 1949; the construction of socialism; the Korean War; industrialisation of China; modernisation of China; the Sino-Soviet split and the breakup of the united world communist movement; the intense and at times deadly inner-party struggles within the CCP; and so on. It was an incredibly momentous period of history – a story of never-ending struggle – and he was a leading protagonist .”
Carlos also countered the bourgeois professors who make careers for themselves out of claiming that Chairman Mao was responsible for the deaths of millions of Chinese, particularly during the Great Leap Forward. He noted that this was ” an ambitious programme, led by Mao, to achieve rapid industrialisation and collectivisation, the idea being to make a much-needed final break with underdevelopment, backwardness and poverty .” Mao himself admitted that in the course of this ground-breaking project there had understandably been mistakes and there was also a disastrous series of droughts and floods. But by no stretch of any honest imagination could the Great Leap Forward be described as “the greatest crime ever committed against humanity”. The aim of bourgeois professors and others who spin such outrageous tales ” is specifically to denigrate the Chinese Revolution. What these academics are trying to do, what their job is, is to prove the superiority of capitalism over socialism; to prove the superiority of colonialism and imperialism over national sovereignty and self-determination. In effect, they’re saying: you people were better off when we were in charge!”
The bona fides of the bourgeois professors who calumniate the Chinese revolution are well demonstrated by that fact that one of them, one Professor Dikotter from London University’s School of Oriental and Africa Studies used his Inaugural Lecture at SOAS to claim that Britain’s forcing opium onto the Chinese population in the mid-19th century really wasn’t that bad!
What any honest person would be asking, however, is ” what capitalist country has achieved so much, in so short a time, compared with what’s been achieved in China, and what was achieved in the Soviet Union?
“Before the revolution,” Carlos pointed out, ” life expectancy in China was around 35 years. … By the time Mao died in 1976, life expectancy had almost doubled, to 67 years. Now it’s 75. The pre-revolution literacy rate in China was around 20%. By the time Mao died, it was around 93%. China’s population had remained stagnant between 400 and 500 million for a hundred years or so. By the time Mao died, it had reached 900 million – clearly, something changed for the better; clearly circumstances were generally favourable for human life!”
Carlos went on: ” Slightly more sophisticated bourgeois analysts will tell you that, OK, China has made impressive progress, but this has only been since the introduction of market reforms and foreign investment. Well, it’s certainly true that incredible progress has been made in recent decades, but that progress is built on what came before it – the basic industrialisation that took place in the 50s, 60s and 70s “.
Carlos also drew attention to the great internationalism of the Chinese revolution:
” Historically of course there is the support for liberation struggles in Zimbabwe, in Algeria, in Korea, in Tanzania, in Zambia and elsewhere. Also it’s important to note that China’s revolutionary model was particularly relevant and particularly inspirational to many countries that were, similarly to China, locked in colonial subjugation and underdevelopment. The ideas of people’s war, of revolutionary base areas, of building a peasant army: these concepts resonated across Africa, Asia and Latin America, and I think it’s fair to say that, more than anyone, it was Mao Zedong and the Chinese Revolution that helped to expand the scope of Marxism from the industrial working class of Europe to the oppressed masses worldwide “.
This internationalist support, he said, continues to this day:
” Venezuela’s rise over the last 14 years would have been extremely difficult without Chinese support. Chinese support is also crucial to Cuba, South Africa, Bolivia, Ecuador, Zimbabwe, Nicaragua and lots of other places. There is a real opening now for the stranglehold of imperialism over the third world to be broken .
” Another great revolutionary, Nelson Mandela, who as you know sadly died just two weeks ago, wrote in his autobiography about what had inspired him in the days when the ANC and the SACP were working out their strategy : ‘I read works by and about Che Guevara, Mao Tse-tung, Fidel Castro. In Edgar Snow’s brilliant Red Star Over China I saw that it was Mao’s determination and non-traditional thinking that had led him to victory.'”
Finally Carlos gave a timely reminder of Comrade Mao’s attacks on dogmatism of the kind that unfortunately many of his self-proclaimed supporters are guilty of today:
Mao ” understood very well that there are no simple formulas for conducting a revolution. His writings and speeches constantly called for creative and serious analysis of specific problems, rather than the application of formulas. He was pretty harsh about it! In his pamphlet ‘Oppose Book Worship’, he says: ‘Unless you have investigated a problem, you will be deprived of the right to speak on it. Isn’t that too harsh? Not in the least. When you have not probed into a problem, into the present facts and its past history, and know nothing of its essentials, whatever you say about it will undoubtedly be nonsense. Talking nonsense solves no problems, as everyone knows, so why is it unjust to deprive you of the right to speak? Quite a few comrades always keep their eyes shut and talk nonsense, and for a Communist that is disgraceful… Of course we should study Marxist books, but this study must be integrated with our country’s actual conditions. We need books, but we must overcome book worship.'”
Carlos ended his contribution by saying that the duty of communists today is ” to try and emulate Mao’s bravery, his creativity, his understanding, his total dedication to the people; and to celebrate his legacy; to celebrate his contribution to China and to the world .”
The meeting ended with the singing of the Internationale.
The representatives of China Daily were present throughout the meeting. The hall was packed to capacity and at the end the participants talked with each other over food and drinks in a most comradely atmosphere.