On Saturday 4 October, a diverse audience of over 80 people packed into Southall’s Saklatvala Hall to attend a highly spirited meeting organised by Hands off China and the CPGB-ML celebrating the 59th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. In addition to the representatives from the Chinese Embassy and the Xinhua News Agency, there were comrades from Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, plus of course lots of locals. The meeting opened with all standing for the national anthem of the People’s Republic.
Chairing the meeting on behalf of the CPGB-ML, Comrade Harpal Brar explained that the Hands off China campaign had been formed in response to the barrage of anti-China propaganda in the run-up to the Olympic Games. These games, he said, had caused great embarrassment not to China but to its detractors â€“ the Beijing Olympics had truly been a festival of friendship and peace.
Comrade Harpal pointed to the extraordinary achievements that have been made by China, especially in the area of poverty alleviation. He noted the stark contrast between China’s ongoing success and the credit crisis affecting the capitalist countries. Ironically, the US financial institutions will probably be forced to come cap in hand to China, which has $2 trillion in currency reserves!
Harpal also addressed the issue of human rights, ridiculing the British press and NGOs for criticising China’s human rights record whilst keeping silent about the human rights abuses perpetrated by Britain around the world. He pointed out that the Chinese people have employment, shelter, food security and national security â€“ things that imperialism denies people everywhere. He ridiculed the outrageous hypocrisy of those who accuse China of exploiting Africa, when China has had a massively positive impact on developing African infrastructure (with no strings attached). Contrast this with the British record of stripping tens of millions of Africans, loading them onto ships and enslaving them in the cane and cotton fields of America and the Caribbean.
Harpal concluded his speech with a discussion on the importance of Mao’s theory of people’s war and its crucial relevance today, from Nepal to Iraq to Afghanistan.
Comrade Hardev Dhillon, giving a message of support from the Indian Workers’ Association (Great Britain), explained that the IWA(GB) had a long and consistent history of support for China, even when supporting China was considered by the Indian ruling class to be an act of treachery. He said that the IWA(GB) had always understood that there would never really be freedom in India without socialism, without traversing the path of popular liberation forged by the Chinese and others. He concluded with a call to step up our efforts to defend China’s independence and sovereignty, saying: â€œIf China goes down, we all go downâ€.
Comrade Kojo Amoo Gottfried, former Ghanaian ambassador to China, congratulated Hands off China for helping to counter imperialist lies about China. Talking about China’s long term plan to develop a prosperous socialist society, he cited the Chinese proverb: â€œIf your vision is one year, you grow rice; if your vision is ten years, you plant trees; if your vision is 100 years, you train people to do what is needed to uplift humanityâ€. He said that, in 59 short years, China had shown the world what could be achieved by a formerly backward and oppressed country â€“ banishing poverty, seeing to people’s education, seeing to people’s health and providing crucial support to other countries.
Kojo admonished the audience to give China their unstinting support. He concluded by saying that, with the support of progressive people, China will always prevail.
Comrade Taimur Rahman, speaking on behalf of the Communist Workers’ and Peasants’ Party (Pakistan) gave a detailed and extremely interesting presentation on China’s rate of growth since its revolution in 1949. Exploding the myth that China’s reform process represented a departure from the socialist road and the historical continuity of the Chinese revolution, he showed that GDP growth had on the whole been remarkably even since the early 1950s (around 9% – an extraordinary rate of growth to sustain for such a long period of time). He also gave the lie to the idea that China’s growth is only due to foreign direct investment, pointing out that those provinces with high levels of FDI do not always achieve higher rates of growth than those provinces with low levels of FDI.
Taimur also pointed out that the variation in growth rate is unusually low; this is evidence that China, with its predominantly socialist economy and its strict economic controls, is not subject to the ‘business cycle’ of boom and bust that all capitalist countries are subjected to.
Comrade Taimur concluded by paying tribute to China’s extensive social programme, which has so greatly benefitted the Chinese people. He noted that, at a time when â€“ according to official statistics â€“ poverty levels are rising in Europe, central Asia and Africa, China has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, and is responsible for 75% of all poverty alleviation over the last 30 years. Taimur congratulated China for its achievements, which are built on the efforts of the Chinese people and which can only be attributed to the Chinese socialist revolution of 1949.
Comrade Mohammed Arif made a statement of support on behalf of the British Afro-Asian Solidarity Organisation. He discussed how the Chinese revolution had unleashed the creative energies of the Chinese people in a land that had for so long been pillaged by imperialism, which was able to ravage China with the help of three things: compass, printing press and gunpowder â€“ all Chinese inventions! Arif supported Taimur’s point about the progress made during the first 30 years of New China, noting that, between 1949 and 1978, life expectancy increased from under 40 to over 62 and child mortality fell from over 20% to under 4%. He pointed out that China had not relied on exploiting other countries; far from it â€“ it had always helped countries in Africa and elsewhere.
After Mohammed Arif’s speech, messages of support were read out, including one from our patron Isabel Crook, a veteran communist revolutionary who lives in China. The message from Vidya Sagar Anand, writer and veteran political activist in the Asian community, said that the 21st century would be China’s century. He recalled the dream of Sun Yat-Sen, the leader of China’s democratic revolution in the early 20th century: that all Chinese children would have shoes and clothes to wear and food to eat. He said that this dream had been realised and surpassed.
Comrade Jack Shapiro, our honorary president and veteran friend of China, inspired the audience, declaring that China had not simply stood up, it had leapt up! Pointing to the success of the recent Beijing Olympic Games, he said: â€œHave you ever seen such an incredible spectacle in your life?!â€
Jack talked at length about the treatment afforded to disabled people in China, which is far better than the treatment afforded them even in rich countries such as Britain. He said that the Disability Act enacted by the Chinese National People’s Congress was the first piece of legislation of its kind anywhere in the world. It was amazing, he said, that China â€“ only 60 years ago a totally devastated country â€“ had become the world leader in enabling and truly liberating disabled people. â€œIn Britain, we still have a long way to go before we treat disabled people as full human beings.â€
Jack said that China is leaping forward in every respect and that it would soon be the world’s leading economy. He said that China would â€œshow the world how to run an economic system that benefits all the people, not just a few fat catsâ€. He concluded on a grave note, pointing out that we are going into a deep crisis of imperialism and that it is the workers who will suffer most. However, he said, this crisis is a signal to us: capitalism is weak; we must be strong and we must use that strength to defeat capitalism for once and for all.
Jack’s inspiring speech was greeted by a standing ovation.
The last speaker of the evening was Comrade Keith Bennett, who remarked on the extraordinary progress made by China since its revolution. China had gone from being â€œin every respect a ruined and humiliated nationâ€ to being a beacon for peace and progress.
Keith spoke at length about China’s record of proletarian internationalism, pointing out that, less than a year after the formation of the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese People’s Volunteers advanced into Korea wave upon wave to roll back the armies of the United States, Britain and more than a dozen other countries. This heroic contribution cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of fighters, including Comrade Mao Anying, the son of Comrade Mao Zedong.
Comrade Keith also paid tribute to the principled stance taken by the Chinese Communist Party in response to Khruschevite revisionism and its attacks against Stalin and the dictatorship of the proletariat. China maintained its stance in spite being effectively placed under a double embargo â€“ by the United States and the Soviet Union.
Keith spoke of the great joy felt not only by the Chinese people but by the oppressed people of the whole world when, in October 1964, China successfully detonated its first atomic bomb. Malcolm X described this event as â€œthe greatest thing that has ever happened in the 20th century to the black peopleâ€. Keith cited the Xinhua report that contained Malcolm X’s comments: â€œReferring to the present struggle of the American Negroes and the firm support given to this struggle by the Chinese people, he said that the US imperialists would never loosen their grip on the 22 million colonised American Negroes before the peoples of Asia and Africa cast off the yoke of imperialism and became strong. Bearing this in mind, we therefore appreciate the great strides that the Chinese people have made toward true independence and the unlimited contribution they are making to help the oppressed peoples in other parts of the world to throw off the chains of imperialism.â€
Keith went on to note that, as the household names of imperialist banking and finance capital collapse like a pack of cards, it is only the socialist road, walked in the past by the USSR, and today by China, Cuba, Korea, Vietnam and Laos, increasingly joined by the peoples of Venezuela, Bolivia, Nepal and elsewhere, now also beginning this journey, that represents humanity’s only hope of a decent future. â€œThis is why it’s so important for us to celebrate the birthday of the People’s Republic. It is China and the other socialist countries that represent the guarantee of a better tomorrow for all working and oppressed people, not just the people of their own countries. It is therefore our absolute duty to support them through thick and thin.â€
After the speeches, Comrade Harpal read out a resolution, which was unanimously agreed by the audience (reprinted below). The formal part of the meeting was concluded in fitting style with the singing of the Internationale, after which comrades enjoyed delicious food and continued their discussions.
The text of the resolution passed at the meeting is as follows:
This meeting, organised by Hands off China and the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), in celebration of the 59th founding anniversary of the People’s Republic of China conveys its warm fraternal greetings to the Communist Party of China, the government of the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese people.
We take this opportunity to renew our heartfelt congratulations on the huge success of the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics as well as the Shenzhou-7 mission, in particular the space walk. Through these epic events, the people of the whole world have been able to see the enormous progress and tremendous achievements of socialist China, which stand in stark and growing contrast to the crisis, chaos and despondency now gripping the capitalist world.
We reaffirm our invariable solidarity with the Chinese party, government and people in their struggle to build a powerful, modernised and prosperous socialist nation, to reunify the country and to contribute to the building of an independent and peaceful world against imperialist aggression and war.
Long live Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism!
Long live the People’s Republic of China!
Forward to the 60th anniversary!
The meeting was reported the next day in Xinhua in the following glowing terms:
Britain’s Communist Party celebrates 59th anniversary of New China
LONDON, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) â€” The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) celebrated on Saturday evening the 59th anniversary of the founding of the New China, lending its unswerving support to China’s pursuit of socialism.
Reviewing China’s development since 1949, when the People’s Republic of China was founded, Harpal Brar, chair of the party, hailed China’s evolving in the past decades into a â€œthriving economy.â€
â€œChina has come a long way since it had been the miserable place under imperialist control. When 13 million children in Africa under the age of 15 die every year, over 400 million Chinese people have been lifted out of poverty in the last 30 yearsâ€¦ China has achieved the basic human rights. It’s a living example of socialism,â€ he said.
Although the Chinese people know they still have a long way to go, â€œso far it has been fantastic,â€ he added.
According to Brar, China has long been supporting countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America in their struggle for independence and development.
The Chinese revolution has inspired the world with great lessons, therefore, celebrating China’s National Day, which falls on Oct. 1, is actually â€œpaying back a little to China for what it does for us,â€ he said.
Some 80 party members and representatives from the Indian Workers’ Association, [and the] Communist Workers & Peasants Party of Pakistan attended the celebration.
Jack Shapiro, a veteran member of the Society for Anglo-China Understanding who had facilitated exchanges between Britain and China on rehabilitation for the disabled, and Kojo Gottfried, former Ghanaian Ambassador to China, also shared their memories of China experience.
A resolution passed at the meeting congratulated China on the success of the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics as well as the Shenzhou-7 manned space mission, in particular China’s first ever spacewalk.
â€œThrough these epic events, the people of the whole world have been able to see the enormous progress and tremendous achievements of socialist China, which stand in stark and growing contrast to the crisis, chaos and despondency now gripping the capitalist world,â€ said the resolution.
The party also reaffirms its â€œinvariable solidarity with the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government and people in their struggle to build a powerful, modernized and prosperous socialist nation, to reunify the country and to contribute to the building of an independent and peaceful world against imperialist aggression and war.â€
In July this year, the Communist Party of Great Britain launched a â€œHands off Chinaâ€ campaign, supporting China in the waves of China-bashing in western media in the run up to the Beijing Olympics.