The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) (CPGB-ML) launched the Hands off China campaign at a spirited and militant rally in central London on the evening of Saturday 19 July, attended by some 50 people.
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 and the Xinhua News Agency attended the meeting as honoured guests.
The whole tone of the meeting was set in an impassioned and powerful speech from Comrade Harpal, who systematically stripped away the layer after layer of lies that are spread in the imperialist countries about socialist China.
He contrasted these lies to the real record and achievements of New China since liberation in 1949, in building a strong economy, a prosperous society and pursuing a peaceful foreign policy, whilst contributing to the liberation of oppressed people in every part of the world.
Harpal spoke movingly about the Sichuan earthquake and how the entire nation had responded in a magnificent way that showed the incomparable superiority of the socialist system. Premier Wen Jiabao had left for the devastated area within two hours; President Hu Jintao had come a few days later; more than 140,000 soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army were deployed; and there was an outpouring of support from every part of the country.
When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in the USA, the National Guard were given orders to shoot on sight, but in China the army and people were as one family. There were no riots or looting in China after the earthquake, because, even though 10 million people had been displaced, their basic needs were being met.
Moreover, reconstruction of the devastated areas, including building millions of new homes, was being given precedence over anything else. Unlike New Orleans, where the poor and largely black areas had still not been rebuilt, there were going to be no permanent tent cities or shantytowns in Sichuan.
Comrade Kojo reflected on his own 50 years of active friendship with the Chinese people and with successive generations of Chinese leaders.
He explained how, contrary to the imperialist lies, New China’s relations with Africa did not begin in recent days but in the 1950s, just after the People’s Republic was set up, when the African countries were still struggling for their independence. Comrade Kojo cited the friendship between Chairman Mao and Ghana’s first President, Kwame Nkrumah, and the Tanzam railway built by China from 1970-75 to break the South African apartheid regime’s grip on the economies of the region.
Comrade Jack outlined the various campaigns that he had joined in support of China since, as a student and member of the Young Communist League (YCL), he had demonstrated against Japan’s invasion of China in the 1930s.
He also outlined how the revisionists who had taken control of the old Communist Party of Great Britain had shut down the Britain-China Friendship Association at the behest of the Khrushchevites. Jack said that Hands off China was inheriting all that was best in all the friendship and solidarity campaigns that had preceded it over the last more than 70 years.
Comrade Avtar pledged the full support of the IWA(GB) for Hands off China.
He outlined the course of India-China relations since India’s independence in 1947 and China’s liberation in 1949. The communists and people of India had built a massive movement of solidarity with People’s China but the imperialists had instigated the counterrevolutionary uprising of the feudal reactionaries in Tibet not least to drive a wedge between India and China, the two largest developing countries, and so push the Nehru government into the pro-American camp.
Avtar outlined how the IWA(GB) had consistently worked in support of China over many decades up to the present day. Following the Sichuan earthquake, IWA members working in foundries in the Midlands had spontaneously collected £2,000 and sent it to the Chinese Embassy.
Avtar also stressed the importance of work in the trade unions and suggested that resolutions be put in trade union branches to send greetings to the Beijing Olympics.
Comrade Keith outlined how China’s development had not only lifted hundreds of millions of her own people out of poverty but had also reversed a generation of economic decline in Africa and Latin America.
“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, although we are, of course, very good 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 peoples’ struggles in every part of the world. This work is our internationalist duty.”
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 has since been taken up and republished by national and local newspapers and other media all over China.
Hands off China will hold its first Annual General Meeting in the autumn.