In my student days, Japan invaded China. The terrible scenes described in the newspapers aroused my interest and indignation. Soon after, Lady Cripps, the wife of Sir Stafford Cripps, launched a campaign which raised the slogan ‘Hands off China!’ I understood that the struggle against Japanese imperialism being led by the Chinese Communist Party was an integral part of the world struggle against fascism and imperialism.
In 1946, the Britain China Friendship Association was reformed and we carried on giving information about the struggle of the Chinese people as the revolution proceeded to victory.
In 1949, the Communist Party of Great Britain was asked by the Communist Party of China to send people to help the Xinhua New Agency develop its English language section. My brother Michael was one of the four people who went to China. In 1963, I visited China and spent nine weeks travelling the length and breadth of the country and meeting a wide variety of people. What enthused me was that everywhere I went the people were proud of what they were achieving and lauded the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.
On my return to Britain, I attended the Annual General Meeting of the Britain China Friendship Association. The chair was taken by the Chairman of the Communist Party of Great Britain’s International Committee, Rajni Palme Dutt. A speech by Khrushchev slandering the Chinese people was mentioned and Palme Dutt said he supported Khrushchev. I was among a number of comrades who were outraged. It appeared that the chairman and the committee of the Britain China Friendship Association would be voted out of office. Palme Dutt adjourned the meeting and in the afternoon he had managed to mobilise a number of adherents which enabled the chairman and the committee to be reinstated.
Those disagreeing were concerned to develop an organisation truly friendly to China and so the Friends of China was formed and I became the Treasurer. We soon had active groups in Finchley, St Pancras, Wimbledon, Willesden, Cambridge, Manchester, Coventry, and other groups in Wales and Scotland were being formed. We had tapped into the enormous feeling of admiration and friendship of the people in Britain for the courageous people of China, building socialism under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. Our Friends of China groups were then absorbed into the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (SACU). Our present organisation, Hands off China is the true successor and inherits the best of all the former friendship organisations.
It is imperative that the truth about China is proclaimed constantly in the face of the slanderous lies and misinformation that passes for news about China. We have as an example a country of 1.3 billion people who started from scratch and are building their own way to socialism. This economy now surpasses all others in being able to withstand the shocks inflicted by the crises of the capitalist world.
Our Hands off China campaign has an enormous job to do. We must wipe away the lies and slanders prevalent in the propaganda against China. Instead we must spread the truth of that vast country’s people’s march forward to socialism with Chinese characteristics. We now commence this task and know that by mobilising all friends of China we will succeed.