Speech by Avtar Jouhl at HoC launch meeting

Comrade Chair and Comrades, it is my pleasure to accept the offer of being a patron of Hands Off China on behalf of IWA which fully associates itself with the aims of Hands Off China. I notice that the membership forms for Hands Off China there is provision for individual members, but I think thought should be given to letting organisations affiliate to Hands Off China. But the IWA is happy to work with Hands Off China even if there is no provision for organisational affiliation. IWA (founded in 1938) 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.

Before I came to this country, the people of India led by Communist Party of India (at that time there was only one Communist Party in India) had a mass campaign in support of China and against the pro-American policies of the Nehru government. During the 1950s relations between China and India developed on state level. Chou en-Lai visited India in 1956. I remember a popular slogan at that time: Indi Chini bhai bhai – the Indians and the Chinese are brothers. This slogan sent echoes to US, British and other imperials that the world’s two most populous countries were friends and not just neighbours. They also participated in the Non-Aligned Movement formed when Yugoslav President Tito was alive. It held the famous Bandung conference in 1955 and was a thorn in side of US imperialism. The US in turn sought to sow discord between India and China, and to this end it played the Dalai Lama card. It fomented an uprising in Tibet which was easily put down. US imperialism then smuggled the Dalai Lama out of Tibet to India and India gave him sanctuary. Nehru’s government at that time was leaning towards US imperialism. The close relationship between China and India was disrupted at the instigation of US imperialism, and in due course this led to the 1962 India-China border war. Today the two states, India and China, are getting together once more to mutually resolve issues, open trade routes (directly land routes), this is disliked by US imperialism, and there is a need for renewed vigilance.

At the time of the China containment policy back in 60s the IWA 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. They hoped to foment trouble in Tibet orchestrated by the Dalai Lama who was sitting in India, but it was clear to all that the Chinese state used only the force needed in Tibet to protect the people from the ruffians fomenting trouble. When imperialism failed to create trouble in China, they tried to make trouble for China in other countries. They tried in India, but at least couldn’t do it in Delhi because the relations between the two governments (India and China) are cordial.

We need to be active in putting the record straight. The next issue that Hands Off China must confront is attempts to divide China. Imperialism failed on the containment policy, and will fail on spoiling the Olympics, and they are trying to divide China just as they did Yugoslavia, and just as they are trying to divide Kashmir from India. On the question of Kashmir, the IWA has protested to the BBC over the use of maps that suggest Kashmir is not part of India, and since then they haven’t shown them. Imperialism is looking to mobilise Islamic fundamentalism to divide China. Whereas the imperialists condemn Islamic fundamentalism in Britain – the extension of the period of custody without charge from 28 days to 42 days is directed against the Islamic fundamentalists with a view to containing them, but similar people in that part of the world are treated by imperialism as freedom fighters for democracy and liberation. So we have to in this campaign expose all these lies, whether on Tibet or any other part of China.

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. How would they have liked it in the early 1970s if China had received Gerry Adams? Gerry at least was fighting for overthrow of British rule in Northern Ireland, but the Dalai Lama is not fighting for liberation of the Tibetan people but for the restoration of serfdom in Tibet. We will not let him succeed.

Let us know in IWA what we can do to promote that. Finally, at the time of the earthquake, in the Midlands, in the foundries, wherever our people work, we 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.

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