Speech by Harpal Brar at HoC launch meeting

You have received communication from the organisers of the meeting who happen to be the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist). We are trying to start an organisation called Hands Off China and you have received from us a communication as to why we want to start that. China has done no harm to anybody. China for over 150 years was the victim of foreign colonialist and imperialist aggression and Chinese people suffered a lot. They only began to build a life for themselves following the liberation of China in October 1949. It was an earth-shattering event when Cde Mao Zedong stood in Tienanmen Square declaring the formation of the People’s Republic of China and saying that the Chinese people have stood up. That not only liberated the Chinese people but enthused progressive humanity everywhere. China has come a long way since its liberation. China has built a strong economy and is having international relationships with all manner of countries with different social systems. All they want to do is to be allowed to be left in peace to build a prosperous society for the Chinese people. You would have thought this was the kind of objective over which nobody could disagree. It is like standing on a public platform and saying “Are you in favour of not beating your spouse?” There would not be many people who disagree with you and say “No, no, I am in favour of beating my spouse”. What the Chinese are saying is: Leave us alone, we want to build a prosperous society. We are not impinging upon anybody else’s territory. We are not treading on anybody else’s toes.

The very people who colonised, or semi-colonised, China – the very people on whose hands there is the blood of hundreds of thousands of Chinese people are today trying to tell you about the human rights, and the lack of respect for human rights, in China and the lack of democracy. They never thought of democracy for the people of Hong Kong, which they had occupied for the sole purpose of the democratic right to use it as a drug-running centre. They will tell you they are fighting a war in Afghanistan to prevent drugs being proliferated and yet Britain waged three opium wars against the people of China, subjugated China and forced them to take opiates. Everybody took part in it – not just the top colonialists. Even the parsons could not resist the rape of China. I remember reading a history book where during the sackings of one of the Chinese towns – and that was normal: every time it was felt by the British statesmen that China needed to be further humiliated, they sent the gunboats and bombarded whole cities and set them on fire. The British soldiery went in time-honoured manner and looted. A parson who was delivering a sermon in a church in China, when he found out that looting was going on, suspended the sermon, went into the town centre, took part in looting, and then came back and resumed the sermon. I am sure these parsons and their descendants are now trying to tell the Chinese how to exercise human rights.

The most important human rights are the right to life, the right to employment and the right to be able to live with sufficient food, clothing and shelter. There is a right that sovereign nations have not to be invaded by foreigners; to be allowed to get on with their own societies. And yet people are not being left alone. Since 2003, Anglo-American imperialism with its satellites has invaded Iraq and they have killed over 1 million people. 2 million people have been forced out of the country and over 2 million are displaced internally. The entire infrastructure of Iraq, its health system – which was the pride of the Middle East, its water and sewage facilities, its education system have all been destroyed. Unemployment is above 50%. And yet the journalistic community in Britain does not actually talk about it. What do they talk about? They talk about the troubles in Tibet. Just over a dozen people were killed in Lhasa, and they were mainly killed by counter-revolutionary followers of the Dalai Lama. The Chinese people were actually victims of that violence. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army behaved with commendable restraint. And this time it was condemned for behaving with commendable restraint. The Chinese can never win. If they are not part of the globalisation movement they are condemned for isolating themselves. If they are part of the globalisation movement, they are condemned for wanting to take everyone over, for underselling everyone else and stealing our jobs. If they allow foreign capital, they are stealing our jobs. If they don’t allow foreign capital then they are committing some other horrendous crimes. The Chinese obviously can’t get it right. But it doesn’t matter whose fault it is, what is it if a dozen people are killed compared with over a million killed? British journalists do not mention that. The American and British media have been instructed by their governments not to mention the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They won’t win the war anyway, but if they are in the news, they lose further support among their own people, so there are strict instructions not to report the war. In the last 8-9 months the news about Iraq and Afghanistan has all but disappeared. The only time you hear is when there is some really big incident in which several imperialist soldiers are killed in a single incident – then the news does come through. And yet British journalists pride themselves on being seekers of truth who cannot be bribed. This always reminds me of the quotation whose source I have forgotten: “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”. I really do not think they know the difference between lies and the truth. I really believe that the Jeremy Paxmans of this world, the Kirsty Walkers of this world, the John Humphries of this world, really feel that they are pursuing justice and truth. They wax eloquent and bust their blood vessels talking about this, that and the other. I wake up in the morning about 7. I don’t get up because I think it is a good way of catching up with the gossip (to turn on the Today programme on Radio 4). But there’s hardly any news. They go on about anything except the really important events that are shaking the world. They do not refer to the fault lines on the international class struggle. They do not talk about how imperialism is trying to recolonise the peoples of the world who gained their liberation at great cost in lives and treasure to free themselves from colonialism and imperialism. Whenever China does even fantastic things and they cannot be denied – the latest example is of course the tragedy of the Sichuan earthquake. It claimed the lives of over 70,000 people. Over 100,000 people were wounded and over a million people were dislocated because they lost their houses etc. 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 ago in August 2005 Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf coast in America. Thousands of people were dislocated and had to leave their houses. I was there a year ago and saw that even then the place had not been cleared up. There are derelict houses that have not been rebuilt. They all belong to poor people, mainly black people. There are cars that have been hurled on to the roof tops, or into trees, and they are still there. And of course they are not rebuilding because it is an opportunity to get this prime real estate site for the so-called developers, the land sharks who are eyeing that. This is why people can’t return to their places. $80bn was belatedly assigned by the federal government towards that clean-up and that hasn’t reached ordinary people. Everyone was left to look after themselves and, as happens under the conditions of capitalism, the rich were able to get away and did not suffer loss of life and their properties were insured so they will be able to claim on the insurance. 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. Now you had a tremendous and horrendous disaster in China: did you see any scenes of Chinese trying to loot grocery stores? No, there was not need to because they were being looked after. And in a matter of weeks the Chinese government made sure that millions of houses were being built to rehouse these people. And the self-effacing heroism with which the rescue operation was conducted! People who lost their own relatives forgot about their own grief and were trying to rescue others. Doctors who hadn’t slept for days were trying to rescue people. The Chinese prime minister is on the scene within a matter of literally 2 hours to guide and supervise the rescue operation. Hu Jintao is on the spot trying to do exactly the same. The entire machinery is geared, as members of one family, to make sure that those that can be rescued are rescued. It was really a sight to be seen and even the bourgeois journalists could not help noticing that. What is their comment in the end? The Financial Times which actually prides itself on being the intellectual organ of British capital has one journalist who says that the Chinese government was able to do “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.

The fact of the matter is that there are countries in Asia where human life is not valued. I was born in one of them – India. There was a disaster when a big hurricane struck the Orissa coast 2-4 years ago. Thousands of people died. Did the Indian government mobilise in the same way? No, it didn’t. And I say that not because I am anti-Indian: I am anti bourgeois governments that do not care for their people. They don’t, either in the rich countries nor in the poor countries. There are violations of human rights in India every day. India is called the largest democracy in the world. What India has got is an elected dictatorship. To become a member of the Legislative Assembly in a Province – not even a member of parliament in the central parliament – it costs about £200,000. Which poor person has the ability to fork out £200,000 to become a Member in a provincial State Legislative Assembly? It’s much more if you want to become a member of the central parliament. Either you have got to be rich, or you have to take bribes, or both, or you have to be a flunkey of the rich who will pay your expenses so that you will do precisely what they want. That kind of democracy is not available in socialist countries and China does not practise it. That is why China is called authoritarian. If that is authoritarianism – that China does not bribe its electorate – then I would say let’s have more of authoritarianism and less of so-called democracy.

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. You can condemn me for saying that for it is a part of the shibboleths of the Left here that you have to condemn Saddam Hussein at the same time as you condemn imperialism. They used their oil wealth to have good health, to have good education, to have good infrastructure; and the moment they want to exercise a certain amount of independence, they are attacked. What right has the United States of America to go into another country with three quarters of a million soldiers of its own and of its satellites, overthrow a government , to try the Head of that state and a number of his colleagues and actually hang them? I think that if there are people who need to be hanged, they are George Bush and members of his government; ;they are Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and members of his government and suchlike other ‘lovers of democracy’. They are exactly the ones who need to be tried – for exactly the kind of crimes for which the Nazi war criminals were tried at the Nuremberg trials in the aftermath of the Second World War.

So we say that 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, has nothing to do with human rights and democracy. It has everything to do with their desire to dominate the whole world. But ever since the October Revolution, the world has changed. Socialism may have temporarily been defeated in the Soviet Union and in eastern and central Europe, but socialism still lives in a number of other countries. As a trend, as showing the future of humanity, socialism is there in the hearts of hundreds of millions of people all around the world: they are 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 themselves. Even Madeleine Albright, a great lover of ‘democracy’, said Iraq was attacked because Iraq had no nuclear weapons. North Korea is not attacked because it has got nuclear weapons. China is a powerful country. Should China be attacked, imperialism would live to regret that. I hope it never comes to that but if they are bent upon testing and trying, the Chinese people will give a very good account of themselves. They will stand up as one man, one woman, and fight against foreign aggressors until these are effaced and extinguished from the face of 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.

So, comrades, these are the reasons we are trying to form this Society – a way of telling the Chinese comrades in Beijing, and their representatives here, and the Chinese community here: don’t look at the media, don’t look at the pronouncements of the representatives of the exploiting class, imperialist statesmen, imperialist media. You have friends among the working class in Britain. They may be few, but they are a growing number and they are in this room today to tell the Chinese people: we are with you, do not be disheartened by looking at the British media.

All that remains for me to do now is to actually introduce our platform. To my extreme right is Comrade Kojo. He is a Ghanaian who has been a very, very important figure in the liberation movement. He has occupied many diplomatic posts. He has visited China several times in various capacities during his life, and you are very welcome here, Comrade.

Then to my right is a very young man, a very special man. His name is Jack Shapiro. The Shapiro family have given a lot. Some of them have given their lives in defence of the Chinese revolution and in defence of the Soviet revolution. It is really good at a time when renegacy has become a wholesale business, when people who used to live off the gravy train of the socialist countries suddenly come up and tell you that the October Revolution was a mistake of historic proportions, to have people like that who have spent all their life defending and fighting for communism and who in their nineties continue to defend that, and with a spirit that many of our young people could be inspired by. Jack, it is a pleasure to have you here.

On my immediate left is comrade Avtar Jouhl. He is the General Secretary of the Indian Workers Association which, dare I say, has played a very progressive role in the working-class movement in this country over the past 50-60 years. The role of the Indian community in espousing progressive causes is in my view second only to the Irish in this country, and we are very proud to have Cde Avtar Jouhl with us. He managed for a short while to be on the General Council of the TUC. He will probably tell you what tricks he had to exercise to get on it. They don’t normally allow the likes of us to get on the General Council – it’s very, very difficult. The TUC General Council is like the Privy Council. You don’t easily get onto it unless you have impeccably good right-wing credentials.

Then on my extreme left – to define his politics – is Keith Bennett. He has been a friend of China almost from pre-birth days. He was a young little boy when I first encountered him, and he has been a friend of China, a friend of North Korea, and supported progressive movements. He is a very close comrade of ours. You have heard him speak from our platform on more than one occasion and you will hear him make a speech again today, and he is ever ready with whatever help that you require from him. It’s a tremendous privilege of mine to be actually connected with him because I can phone him at 2 o’clock and say ‘Keith, the newspaper’s got to come – yesterday – can you do something for it very, very quickly.’ And Keith will always do that, and it is tremendous that comrades will take that kind of job seriously and deliver it.

I also need to tell you that a woman, just as young as Jack, should have been here, Isabel Crook. The Crooks have a fantastic history too, just like the Shapiros. They spent a lot of time in China. Isobel Crook was of Canadian descent. She had missionary parents and she was born in China. She returned to Canada to complete her university education, then went back to China where she met David Crook and her life changed. She married him, a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. They were deciding to leave around the time of the liberation of China, but the Chinese Communist Party persuaded them to stay behind and work in China. They worked teaching the English language and a lot of people who became very high Chinese officials and diplomats were taught by the Crooks. She should have been here but she felt too tired to come. She was being driven to the venue of the meeting by one of her sons (they live in London, she lives in Beijing). She should have been able to come but she sends her good wishes and she says we have all her support.

Likewise we have had a message from Mohammed Arif who is the General Secretary of the British Afro-Asian Solidarity Organisation. He should have been here but he is abroad now in Sri Lanka. He also sends his good wishes and says that the Society has his full support, and he will support it when he returns.

Finally, believe it or not, you may think our party is very small, but it has membership flung right across the globe. One of members is living in Beijing. He is an editor of China Daily and he has come to know that we are holding this meeting. So he has sent his good wishes to this meeting as a member of this party from Beijing.

Such is the love of the British media for truth that you can see at the back 10 journalists from major news organisations sitting ready to report this meeting and no doubt on the front pages of major newspapers and on peak time television news, there would be news about this meeting. 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, the New China News Agency, who is here (and I welcome you, comrade) would be able to report the proceedings at this meeting in the Chinese press. Who cares whether the British media report or not, when 1.3bn Chinese will have access to this meeting?

There is a euro-centric point of view. I cannot resist telling you this story. I was contacted by Channel 4 television people yesterday. They said there is a Russia television station that is conducting a contest as to who was the greatest 20th century Russian. They were not horrified that Nicholas II, that murderer of the Russian people was at the top, but they were really upset that Stalin was coming close behind. How could you explain it? They were interviewing some Russian called Nekrasov, some counter-revolutionary representatives of the oligarchs, that scumbag Simon Sebag Montefiore, and they got in touch with me. I went there and they interviewed me for 13 minutes. They put one sentence from my speech. They had Sebag Montefiore for over 10 minutes, talking general rubbish, but they wouldn’t allow contrary views. That is their idea of freedom of the press. Freedom of the press means that the press is owned by a few multi-billionaires. They are the ones who decide what will go in this free press and what will not go. Freedom of the press is a total fake. I have had plenty of opportunities to be treated like that. When I was there they asked me: how can Stalin be at the top because he killed 27 million people. I said: have you got any proof of these 27 million deaths? 27 million people are supposed to have been done to death by Stalin during the period of collectivisation, which lasted 3½ years. If you actually work this out, it would mean that 10,000 people would have to be done to death every day. The Red Army, the Red Navy and the Red Air Force would have nothing on their hands other than to exterminate their own people every day for 3½-4 years! Nobody saw them do that. The demographic evidence does not show that this took place. The ration cards that Soviet people were issued at that time do not show a decrease in population. What is more, the so-called Ukrainian famine that is supposed to have resulted from the collectivisation has been exposed to be a total fake not by the communists alone but also by a Canadian professor called Douglas Tottle, who showed it to be a fake and demonstrated that the pictures which were used as evidence of that alleged famine actually came from the civil war.

The TV journalist, after going through several things with me, asked why Stalin should be popular. I said it was because he was head of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union at the time of these tremendous achievements – collectivisation, industrialisation, victory over fascism and all the rest of it. Then he said: do you find anything surprising about it. I said I did find one thing surprising and that was that he should be ahead of Lenin. That was the only thing I found surprising. I suppose that is attributable to the fact that Lenin is not as much maligned as Stalin is. The journalist insisted that Stalin must have had something wrong with him. I replied that this could only be in the sense that to err is human, so he must have made some mistakes. What were they I was asked. Maybe he went to sleep when he was being interviewed by journalists, I said, but I don’t know. I wasn’t by his side. I never was there. I am a student of history and have read Soviet history and have been unable to find that he made any great major mistakes. If we was really so horrible and treated his people so badly, the time to deal with him was during the Second World War. It is during wartime that hollow regimes actually see the end of themselves. Just as Nicholas II found that out, so would Stalin had he been that unpopular. They asked me to sum up and I said Stalin was a truly great leader who made hardly any mistakes. That is the sentence they showed. They took away the whole of the interview. That is their idea of freedom of the press, and we have to get away from that idea of so-called ‘freedom of the press’ and create our own powerful working-class press, and that is why we want people to write for our newspaper, Proletarian, and we want people to circulate it so that it really becomes an organ which the British working class reads to get its news from there and not from those purveyors of death and destruction.

With these words I thank you very much for listening to me. There has been distributed to you the Aims of our Society and if you wouldn’t mind I would just like to draw your attention to them in case you didn’t have time to read them because you were too busy managing Soviet affairs. The Aims of our Society are that it defends the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China against imperialism and its stooges. Secondly it supports the One China principle and the People’s Republic of China’s just stand on such issues as its vital national interests as Taiwan and Tibet. Three, refutes hostile propaganda and misinformation of the capitalist media and others against the People’s Republic of China. Four, uphold the great revolutionary traditions of the Chinese communists, working class and people. Five, upholds the achievements of the Chinese people in eliminating poverty and in building the strong powerful and modernised socialist country, as well as the PRC’s contribution to realising a multi-polar and peaceful world and to the independent and anti-imperialist development of the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

That really upsets them very much. The Chinese not only spend money but actually engage in development. If an imperialist country gives so-called aid, most of it goes to consultants living in Washington, London and New York. The Chinese actually go and put their boots and gloves on and start building roads, hospitals, etc. This really irritates them. “This is a new model of development we’ve never seen. The Chinese are trying to colonise Africa!” So say the very people who colonised Africa for over 100 years and who have reduced it to the level at which it is; the people who transported a hundred million people from Africa to turn them into slaves, depopulated Africa, devastated Africa’s economy, took these slaves to the plantations in America where the black people up to today continue to suffer disproportionately poverty, unemployment, bad housing and all the rest of it! The Chinese develop economies, build roads, etc. What are the imperialists saying now? They are accusing the Chinese of closing their eyes to the human rights violations perpetrated by the African governments with whom they deal. The Chinese are violating no human rights. The Chinese policy has always been not to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. If every country in the world followed that principle, the people of the world would liberate themselves in no time.

The Aims state finally “supports the workers, students and other members of the Chinese community in their struggles against racism and for their rights”. I hope that as our Society takes root we will be able to build closer connections with Chinese students who are here temporarily and of course with the Chinese community which traditionally in this country has kept a low profile and not entered into these things. I think it is time the Chinese community came out – not only in defence of China when China is attacked but also in defence of all progressive causes. It will be our endeavour to achieve this.

I think the Chinese comrades should take heart from a well-known poem from a great Russian revolutionary democrat of the 19th century, Nekrasov. Two lines of his poem I remember very much: I hear the voice of approbation not in the dulcet sounds of praise but in the roar of irritation. Or in the much easier language of Cde Mao Zedong: if the enemy attacks you it is a good thing, not a bad thing. So comrades, if you are being attacked, it is a back-handed compliment that you are doing something right.

May I through the comrade from the Chinese embassy, Comrade Xu Bin, and the comrade from Xinhua, how pleased we are, and every progressive all over the world is, at the veto that the Chinese delegate exercised over the question of sanctions against the regime of my friend Robert Mugabe. We are really, really pleased. We think that all the people who are under attack from imperialism have to stick together. Therein lies our salvation. Thank you very much.

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