AGM: Report of work to date

Report of work to date delivered to the Hands off China AGM (held on 7 February, 2009) by the acting secretary, Carlos Rule.

As you know, Hands off China was set up in June last year on the initiative of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), at a time when the imperialist (and much of the so-called ‘left’) media was awash with anti-Chinese propaganda. Many enemies of China felt that the preparations for the Beijing Olympics offered a unique opportunity to spread lies about China, in particular its human rights record and its alleged colonisation of Tibet. Luminaries of the social-democratic left were lining up to slander China. Indeed, Jeremy Corbyn wrote in the Morning Star: “What a fantastic wake-up call it would be for the whole world if the Olympic Games had to be suspended to allow the air to clear to make it safe for athletes to compete.”

No political organisation in this country was standing up for China in a meaningful way at that time. The British working class was getting a consistently anti-China message from the ruling class and its representatives in the left, and the British working class movement found itself in the curious position of not understanding and not trusting China – the strongest anti-imperialist force in the world today.

In setting up Hands off China, we established a set of clear aims, which continue to be relevant: defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the PRC against imperialism and its stooges; supporting the ‘One China’ principle and the PRC’s just stands on such issues of its vital national interest as Taiwan and Tibet; refuting hostile propaganda and misinformation of the capitalist media and others against the PRC; upholding the great revolutionary traditions of the Chinese communists, working class and people; supporting the achievements of the Chinese people in eliminating poverty and building a strong, powerful and modernised socialist country; supporting the PRC’s contributions to realising a multi-polar and peaceful world and to the independent, anti-imperialist development of the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America; and supporting Chinese workers, students and other members of the Chinese community in Britain in their struggles against racism and for their rights.

Over the last eight months, we have made significant progress in relation to those aims.

Meetings

Our launch meeting was held on 19 July, at the Kings Cross Neighbourhood Centre. Although organised at short notice, it was a well-attended and spirited event, with an all-star cast of speakers and an enthusiastic audience. The speakers included our honorary president, Jack Shapiro; two of our patrons, Kojo Amoo Gottfried and Avtar Jouhl; as well as comrades Keith Bennett and Harpal Brar. In addition to talking about the need to support China generally, the speakers all made reference to the Sichuan earthquake disaster that occurred in May 2008 and the Chinese state’s extraordinarily swift and decisive response to it.

The speeches highlighted the need to support China as a matter of proletarian internationalist duty. This is summed up very well by Keith, who said:

“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.”

It was a very vibrant meeting, and its effect was multiplied many times over when a report was featured in Xinhua and syndicated to news organisations across China and beyond. The report, entitled ‘Britain’s Communist Party launches Hand-0ff-China campaign’, was published along with a lovely picture of Comrade Harpal in front of the Hands off China banner (which had been produced just a few days earlier!).

The following resolution was proposed and unanimously adopted at the meeting:

“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 next public meeting of the campaign was held in Southall, west London, on Saturday 4 October, in celebration of the 59th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. A diverse audience of over 80 people packed into Southall’s Saklatvala Hall to attend this highly spirited meeting, which was jointly organised by Hands off China and the CPGB-ML. Speakers included Jack Shapiro, Kojo Amoo Gottfried, Taimur Rahman (Communist Workers’ and Peasants’ Party, Pakistan), Hardev Dhillon (Indian Workers Association), Keith Bennett, Mohammed Arif and Harpal Brar, and messages of support were read out from our patron Isabel Crook (a veteran communist revolutionary who lives in China) and Vidya Sagar Anand (writer and veteran political activist in the Asian community).

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!

This meeting was also reported in Xinhua and all other major Chinese print and online news publications.

The first meeting of Hands off China to take place outside London was held in Bristol on 12 October at the Malcolm X Community Centre, St Pauls. This meeting was addressed by Keith Bennett and chaired by Giles Shorter. Comrade Keith noted the significance of the meeting being held in the Malcolm X Centre – Malcolm X made a significant contribution to the struggle against imperialism, and was highly supportive and appreciative of the role played by post-revolutionary China in that struggle.

Following Keith’s presentation, there was a lively and useful discussion. Extensive discussion took place on the question of Tibet, as a small number of people in the audience were calling for Tibetan independence and criticising the PRC’s supposed aggression against the Tibetan people. The speakers, as well as members of the audience, pointed out that Tibet had been part of China for centuries and had made no claim for independence until a decade after the Chinese revolution (when the successful development of infrastructure under the PRC was undermining the feudal control of the Dalai Lama and his cohorts). Indeed, the very concept of ‘Tibetan independence’ was a creation of British imperialism.

Comrades noted that, as part of the PRC, Tibet has benefited from investment in infrastructure, provision of schools, books, healthcare and the abolition of the barbaric feudal system under which the Tibetan people had suffered for centuries. Furthermore, Tibetan culture and language have been consistently supported and have thrived. If Tibet were to break from China, it would certainly not become any more independent.

Another Hands off China public meeting was held in Woolwich, south-east London, on 25 January, at the Shaheed Udham Singh Asian Community Centre. This meeting was jointly organised by Hands off China and the Greenwich & Bexley Branch of the Indian Workers Association (Great Britain). The organisers did an excellent job mobilising people from the local community, and there were around 60 people, ranging from teens to people in their 80s.

The speeches, from comrades Harpal Brar, Keith Bennett, Carlos Rule and Hardev Dhillon, were very well received. The entire meeting was conducted in English and Punjabi, and the dinner after the meeting was provided free by a local restaurant sympathetic to our cause.

Propaganda

The Hands off China blog was launched on 18 June, very soon after the formation of the campaign. In that time, there have been nearly 70 blog posts – advertising meetings, displaying leaflets, or linking to important articles in the Chinese press and elsewhere. The blog gets a reasonably high volume of traffic, and there have been around 50 comments.

We also have a Facebook group, with around 300 members, and the YouTube videos of the speeches at the National Day meeting have been viewed hundreds of times.

We have also produced, and distributed widely, a leaflet entitled ‘Reasons to support China’. This leaflet contains bullet points about the incredible strides forward made by the Chinese people since 1949, the living standards in China, the effects of the poverty alleviation programme, China’s record of support for developing countries, and China’s focus on ecologically sustainable development. Thousands of copies of this leaflet have been printed and distributed.

Some Hands off China material has even been printed in Italian, in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, where some comrades have set up a Giù le mani dalla Cina (Hands off China) group.

Summary

In just eight months, we have achieved a great deal. This year, with the contradictions of imperialism becoming ever sharper, there will doubtless be a great deal of antipathy to socialist China from the bourgeoisie and its social-democratic hangers-on. Therefore, there is a lot of important work for us to do. We must get our literature out far and wide and hold meetings in different parts of the country. We must take our message further afield and deeper into the working class, which must come to appreciate that China is a crucial ally in the struggle for progress.

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