It is the last volume of the original volumes VI to IX published by from Kranti Publications and Sramikavarga Prachuranalu from 1990 to 1994. It covers the time period of 1963 to 1968, with a few texts from 1969 to 1971.
The Indian editors observed that in the context of the development of countries in eastern Europe and Socialist Russia, and even in China, adopting the capitalist road, the study of Mao’s writings assume greater significance. On the other hand, the class struggles in the third world, including the Philippines and Peru reinforce the relevance of Mao’s thought for the revolutions in the oppressed countries. In India, since the days of Naxalbari, Mao’s thought has been, and it continues to be, the guiding star. (1994 draft on From Marx to Mao website).
Volume 9 contains a selection of material from a critical time in China: the Socialist Education Movement and the first years of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR).
The practices and lessons learned from the Cultural Revolution, trying to arm the people with questions, insight and understanding in order to continue the struggle for socialism, are the cornerstone of the development of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought to Maoism.
The texts from the Socialist Education Movement, the last Party-led mass movement, are essential to understanding why Mao saw it necessary to launch the Cultural Revolution. The sharp line struggle that emerged from it brought into clear focus that there was the emergence of a new bureaucratic capitalist class in the Party under socialism, and that this line struggle could not be combated by mass movements led by the Party alone when the target was capitalist-roaders inside the Party.
The Great Debate, Sino-Soviet Split, the Polemic – call it what you want to emphasis – was a very valuable episode in the defence and rejuvenation of Marxist thought. It challenged the growing revisionism, shinning a searchlight on the dangers within the international communist movement and launched a resistance ibn a rallying call to oppose and reject the attempts to divert the freedom struggle into the accommodation and absorption of the concerns of monopoly capitalism and imperialism.
What remains the most insightful starting point to understand the contours of that anti-revisionist approach remains the 1965 collection produced by FLP Peking, “The Polemic on the General line of the International Communist Movement” and associated publications. The modern MLM publishing house FLP announced it was gonna release the documents of the CPC, The Great Debate Volume 1 in mid-October 2021, that brings that back in print alongside internet access.
That struggle looms over as the backdrop to the domestic dramas unleashed in the Socialist Education Movement and the early years of the Cultural Revolution covered in this selection of the conversations, texts and interjections by Mao Zedong.
During the Cultural Revolution a nationwide programme devoted to studying the works of Chairman Mao were launched. When it was in high tide, Mao himself observed:
“The Selected Works of Mao, how much of it is mine! It is a work of blood. The struggle in the soviets was very acute. Because of the errors of the Wang Ming line, we had to embark on the 25,000 li Long March. These things in Selected Works of Mao were taught to us by the masses and paid for with blood sacrifices. “
source: Volume 9 p66 – Foreign Languages Press, Paris 2021
The GPCR was the manifestation of Mao’s realization that the only way to win the struggle for socialism was the elevated consciousness of the masses and their ability to rectify the Party: to target the real enemies of the dictatorship of the proletariat within the highest levels of party leadership.
It’s only called class struggle when you resist
The question of why the capitalist-roaders in China were victorious in the end has many answers in the fierce struggles during all of the mass movements, from the Anti-Rightist Campaign (1957-1959) to the Socialist Education Movement, culminating in the GPCR.
Mao spoke in August 1964 of what was at stake:
“Mao Zedong [Talking about the first criterion for successors]: Are you going to study Marxism-Leninism, or revisionism?
Mao Zedong: Don’t be too sure, who knows what you’re studying? Do you know what Marxism-Leninism is?
Yuanxin: Marxism-Leninism means that you must carry on the class struggle, that you must carry out revolution.
Mao Zedong: The basic idea of Marxism-Leninism is that you must carry out revolution. But what is revolution? Revolution is the proletariat overthrowing the capitalists, the peasants overthrowing the landlords, and then afterwards setting up a workers’ and peasants’ political power, and moreover continuing to consolidate it. At present, the task of the revolution has not yet been completed; it has not yet been finally determined who in the end will overthrow whom. In the Soviet Union, is not Khrushchev in power, is not the bourgeoisie in power? We too, have cases in which political power is in the grip of the bourgeoisie; there are production brigades, factories, and xian committees, as well as district and provincial committees, in which they have their people, there are deputy heads of public security departments who are their men. Who is leading the Ministry of Culture? The cinema and the theater are entirely in their service, and not in the service of the majority of the people. Who do you say is exercising leadership? To study Marxism-Leninism is to study the class struggle. The class struggle is everywhere; it is in your Institute, a counter-revolutionary has appeared in your Institute, are you aware of this or not? He wrote a reactionary diary filling a dozen or so notebooks, every day he cursed us, shouldn’t he be considered a counter-revolutionary element? Are you people not completely insensitive to class struggle? Isn’t it right there beside you? If there were no counter-revolution, then why would we still need revolution?”
Source: Volume 9 p140 – Foreign Languages Press, Paris 2021
The scholarship to compile the first edition of Volume mined the existing sources, the improvements in the second edition included the replacement of some texts with the official translation published in Beijing Review and correction to chronological dating and order of publication (see “Some Technical Points Volume 9 piii – Foreign Languages Press, Paris 2021).
Drawing on state published official sources including Hongqi (Red Flag), the unofficial Wansui editions and a variety of familiar western publications (like the JPRS collection, drawing on the work of Stuart Schram, Jerome Chen’s Mao’s Papers, Edgar Snow’s 1965 interview, memoir of Andre Malraux), Volume 9 has made available, at an affordable price, texts consigned to disparate second hand markets. It could provide a revelation to a new generation studying Mao. His words, expression of concern, advice and reasoning conjure up a vastly different impression than that of the stereotypical bad leader tope beloved of western coverage. Such revolutionary scholarship restores Mao to his place as a leading revolutionary of the last century, and relevant to this.
The collation of Mao’s texts in Volume 9 provides a source of study material for activists, and provides a commentary on the issues of a struggle mistakenly portrayed as little more than a chaotic miscalculation amongst a political elite. Its chronological arrangement illustrates the unfolding concerns raised through the Socialist education Movement and the rapid mass criticism from below unleashed during the Cultural Revolution.
The upcoming Volume 10 promised by FLP will complete the entire period of the Cultural Revolution and represent a new departure with its publication.
In a follow up to the previous post that looked at infiltration by the state in the revolutionary movement during the flowering of protest in the late 1960s and 70s in Britain saw one element of the security apparatus, Special Branch, have its lens focused upon the newly emergent forces of the anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninists. The Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) was a covert unit under Special Branch supervision that existed within the Metropolitan Police Service between 1968 and 2008. So far the cover names of 45 out of a total of at least 144 undercover officers have been disclosed during the ongoing official Undercover Policing Inquiry. The previous post looked at the released reports of the anonymous clandestine police spy, assigned the designation HN13, on the marginal Far Left Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist). Among the other state agents exposed have been those engaged in spying upon the small if energetic , short-lived Revolutionary Marxist Leninist League led by one of the prominent personalities of the movement, Manchanda.
Constable HN45 “Dave Robertson” served as an undercover police officer engaged in secretly surveillance of London Maoists active in the Revolutionary Marxist Leninist League led by A. Manchanda. Activist Diane Langford, reported on by the copspys, remarked:
“The reason given for spying on us was to gather intelligence about forthcoming demonstrations and possible infractions of public order. The futility of this is illustrated by a demonstration consisting of a maximum of a dozen of us, walking with cardboard placards, in support of Huey Newton in 1969. We were astonished to arrive at Grosvenor Square to be met by at least a thousand uniformed police and row upon row of parked up police vans.” [i]
Although the consensus is that the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign had been a target of DC HN45, “Dave Robertson” joined the RMLL study classes held at Manchanda’s home, 58 Lisburne Road, from 1970 onwards, and report on the Revolutionary Marxist Leninist League and its associated organisation principally the Britain-Vietnam Solidarity Front. Testimony at the Undercover Policy Enquiry referred to.
“ a meeting at a pub in King’s Cross. It references, halfway down: “There was no chairman and the only speaker was Al Manchanda, who spoke on the subject of ‘Soviet revisionism and collusion with US Imperialists’.” And then you conclude with referencing: “No mention was made of any future activities.” And the report lists a number of names of people that were present: Al Manchanda, Diane Langford and Sonia Seedo are those that we can see on the page. “ [ii]
Others names were redacted by “privacy” overlays.[iii]
DC HN45 Robertson reported February 1971 on the personal circumstances that Manchanda’s wife worked full-time while he remained at home caring for their small daughter – presented as a practical experiment in the field of women’s Liberation. He informed Special Branch that Manchanda considered the position of Secretary of the RMLL to be a full time responsibility and awarded himself a small weekly payment of around £4 out of organisation funds. The purchasing power of £4 in 1971 equivalent to £50.31 today.
In her written OPENING STATEMENT to THE UNDERCOVER POLICING INQUIRY, Diane Langford observed:
“HN45 displays a vindictive hatred of Manu and a peculiar obsession with our personal relationship and child-care arrangements. He sent detailed reports to the Special Branch about what he apparently saw as transgressive behaviour – a man looking after his own child – and expressing horror that I was ‘sent out to work.’ He informs his superiors of Manu’s ‘insufferable anecdotes’ about our baby. Strangely, nothing in there about us overthrowing the state machine.
HN45, ‘Dick Epps’ et al were part of a manipulative, racist endeavour to justify their pay packet by portraying Manu as being an imminent danger to the state, implying he espoused the idea of going on demonstrations only to foment violence. This is utter rubbish. He never had any illusions about the possibility of ‘smashing the state machine.’ On the contrary, he was pragmatic about the possibility of challenging the power of the State head on. His scepticism about the willingness of sections of the white working class to give up privileges derived from colonialism annoyed many on the left and, apparently, HN45.”[iv]
Evidently good at establishing rapport within the group, Constable HN45 was said to have developed a friendship with Mr Gajawan Bijur, owner of the Banner Bookshop in Camden, that since it was opened in 1968, become one of the principle outlets for the dissemination of official Peking-line literature .
A report to Special Banch stated: “Bijur has recently opened a second bookshop in Brixton to which he wishes to devote more of his time and is currently looking for a suitable ‘comrade’ to run the one at 90 Camden High Street.” It noted that in the course of his penetration of Maoist groups, DC [HN45] is becoming a confidante of Bijur.
“By coincidence, he has asked DC [HN45] of the Special Operations Squad to take it on, or to recommend a reliable substitute. ….Bijur would like the position filled by 14th February, 1972.
What those advantages would be: “(i) It would entrench our officer in Bijur’s esteem and probably make him acceptable in most Maoist circles.(ii) He would become privy to the inner workings and policy of ‘Banner Books’. (iii) He would probably have access to records and mailing lists of persons of interest to Special Branch. (iv) He would be able to provide a plan of the bookshop and would have access to the keys of the premises.”
From his released reports by the UNDERCOVER POLICING INQUIRY we learn of the busy schedule of a newly recruited “political activist “ as HN45 reported on:
Meeting of the Revolutionary Marxist Leninist League held at the Union Tavern, King. Cross Road, C1 on Sunday, 15 November 1970 from 7.30 pm to 10.30 pm that was tended by 12 persons. The chairman and only speaker was Abhimanyu MANCHANDA who delivered a long lecture on ‘How the Soviet Revisionists carry out all-round restoration of capitalism in the USSR”.
27th November Camden Studios, NW1, a leaving party for representatives of the Democratic republic of Vietnam organised by RMLL drew 40 people, only about eight were not from RMLL and associated groups. Disapprovingly as several hundred invitation had gone out to the London Left. Manchanda spoke and Diane Langford, representatives from Friends of Korea, Pan African Congress and South West Africa National Union made short remarks. Following this, Gajawan BIJUR spoke and present bouquet of flowers.
On Sunday, 29 November 1970, at Camden Studios, just off Camden Street, about five minutes’ walk from Mornington Crescent Tube station, a public meeting was organised by the Revolutionary Marxist Leninist League and Friends of China’ to celebrate the 26th Anniversary of Socialist Albania. The meeting which commenced at 7pm and finished at 10 pm. Manchanda was the chairman and only speaker to the audience of 16, one of whom was seemingly from the revisionist CPGB, engaged in a heated argument with Manchanda in the Q & A session.
Planning RMLL activities for the year 1971
January 20th 1971 Wednesday evening meeting to plan RMLL activities (including the Women’s Liberation Front (WLF) and its newspaper “Women’s Liberation”, Friends of China and the Britain-Vietnam Solidarity Front (BVSF) was attended by 14.
A potential move into industrial work saw applications targeted at Fords at Dagenham and the Metal Box co. in North London (principally women and Asian workers). The formation of a WLF branch in the Palmers Green area was to support campaigning at the latter site. Diane Langford was to initiate a more general orientation to women members of the Society of Graphical and Allied Trades (SOGAT) in the printing industry through her workplace. (SOGAT now part of Unite)
“The question of regular weekly public meetings, film shows and Other activities were discussed but no firm plans were made. Manchanda was to drew up a calendar. of dates and venues for such meetings and this would be submitted in due course.”
The RMLL were to produce its own journal, scheduled for March to coincide with commemoration of the Paris Commune, with Manchanda as editor who “hoped to get some assistance from the Chinese News Agency. Manchanda was less keen on the suggestion of opening a bookshop favouring RMLL run pop-up bookstalls. Whether there was any consideration by Manchanda of the political relationship and support already sustained by the proprietor of Banner Books to the activities of the group would be speculation.
Political classes for beginners were to continue weekly at Lisburne Road, Belsize Park, North West London, NW3. A monthly weekend school, in addition to weekly meetings, for members was planned to discuss political activities and plan future strategy.
Overlap with other undercovers
The entry of the Undercover Research Portal at Powerbase – investigating corporate and police spying on activists – noted that DC HN45 was not alone in surveillance, infiltration and reporting upon the Maoist milieu in London.
“It is notable that a number of the venues frequented by the RMLL, such as the Laurel Tree and The Enterprise Pubs, as well as the Camden Studios, were also frequented in 1969 by another SDS undercover officer John Graham when he was infiltrating another Maoist influenced group, the Camden Vietnam Solidarity Campaign. According to the Undercover Policing Inquiry Graham also reported back on the Revolutionary Socialist Students’ Federation.
A third SDS undercover, using the name ‘Alex Sloan‘, targeted one of the groups that split from the RMLL: the Communist Workers League of Britain, which was behind the Irish National Liberation Solidarity Front and also active in and around Camden. Like Robertson, ‘Alex Sloan’ was deployed 1971 to 1973.
A fourth undercover infiltrated the Women’s Liberation Front, set up by Diane Langford, when in the early 1970s the RMLL developed a focus on feminist issues and the growing women’s liberation movement. The address for the new group was house on Lisburne Road which Diane shared with Manchanda and served as an effective headquarters for the RMLL and its associated groups. In 1972-1973 the Women’s Liberation Front was targeted by female SDS undercover, known only as ‘Sandra’ (HN348).
The activism and internationalism that characterised the RMLL was overshadowed by events in October 1971 at the Second National Women’s Liberation Conference in Skegness.
The RMLL’s Women’s Liberation Front, and other maoist-aligned activists were active in the movement but, as Langford recalled,
“The reputation of the Maoists within the Women’s Liberation Movement was rock bottom. Women were trying to develop a new, autonomous movement and we were seen as male-dominated and spouting tired old anti-imperialist rhetoric. In particular, women long remembered the incident at the national WLM conference in Skegness in 1971 when Harpal Brar leapt onto the stage and wrestled the microphone out of a woman’s hand. After that, conferences were solely for women but that didn’t stop some men from trying to gate crash and even assault women attending.”
The report to Special Branch from its agent HN348 “Sandra”, noted Meysel Brar was chair for part of the proceedings and that fellow WLF member Chris Mackinnon ”made her usual maoist pronunciations” that provoked a suspected pre-planned walk out of about 150 associated with the Gay Liberation Front. Meysel was said to have continued the meeting “as if nothing had occurred”. The next session proved as contentious when the patriarchal, self-entitled and violent actions of the RMLL member abused and assaulted other attendees:
“A number of persons spoke, amongst them was XXXX. As he left his seat he was surrounded by about twenty screaming women who poured abuse on him. He promptly punched two of them and dragged another along by her hair. He meanwhile poured his scorn on them, describing them as “a queer lot of bitches unfit to be called women let alone members of the Women’s Liberation Movement”, many women left the hall weeping and wailing. On attaining the platform XXXX pointed out he was a member of an affiliated group and had contributed towards the conferences expenses. It would be undemocratic for him or any other man to be asked to leave.” [v]
Unfortunately, within the wider Women’s Liberation Movement this was falsely seen as characteristic of the Maoist approach to the issue. While there was a common position that women’s liberation was a class question, in the constellation of activist groups there was differences that were not always appreciated. So, regretting the dissolution of the broad-based WNCC, the Women’s Liberation Front drafted a letter in November 1971 to go to all groups within the WNCC that stated:
“the usurping of that democracy during the recent conference had been highly irregular” and argued for a reinstatement of the WNCC structure. [vi]
At Skegness, the first four demands of the WLM were passed
1. Equal Pay
2. Equal Educational and Job Opportunities
3. Free Contraception and Abortion on Demand
4. Free 24 hour Nurseries.
But also the Women’s National Coordinating Committee was voted out of existence, in favour of local and regional conferences and organisation.
The Women’s National Coordinating Committee (WNCC) had been created in 1970 as a coordinating body for the broad Women’s Liberation Movement and the groups that were affiliated with it. An appeal for resurrection from the WLF failed to garner support. In the aftermath of the negative reputation that spread, a polemical reply was produced by the actual culprits of the ACW’s Union of Women for Liberation. The Hemel Hempstead based group originated in 1969 as a split from Manchanda’s Revolutionary Marxist-Leninist League and led by Harpal and Mysel Brar . Prolific propagandists, the UWL published its version in Lessons of Skegness: a brief account of the proceedings of the Women’s Nation al Co-ordinating Committee Conference at Skegness (October 15-17, 1971) and an exposure of the dirty role of the Trotskyites, revisionists and feminists. Hemel Hempstead 1972] [vii]
For the WLF Turkish women comrades made a massive banner depicting a woman raising her fist with broken shackles. The Women’s Liberation Front passes through Trafalgar Square on March 6th, 1971.
The police infiltrator, Sandra HN348, reflecting years later on spying on the WLF, told the official judge-led Undercover Policing Inquiry, that she did not believe her undercover work was worthwhile. The inquiry is scrutinising how police used at least 139 undercover officers to spy on more than 1,000 political groups over more than 40 years. “Sandra” said she did not see any of the members she spied on acting violently or committing crimes. “I do not think my work really yielded any good intelligence, but I eliminated the WLF from public-order concerns,” she said in her written evidence. Why the police sent an undercover police officer to infiltrate a very small women’s rights group that lawfully campaigned for equal pay, free contraception and better nursery provision, “the officer claimed the group was of interest to Special Branch because of its links with “more extreme groups” such as the Angry Brigade and “Irish extremists.” Morning Star The Women’s Liberation Front had come to attention of the Special Branch unit “through its links with the Revolutionary Marxist-Leninist League”.
“Women’s liberation was viewed as a worrying trend at the time,” said HN348 Sandra.
“She attended weekly meetings held in campaigners’ private homes that were attended by about 10 people. As she was trusted, she became the treasurer of the group’s main committee, whose meetings were also held in private homes and attended by around five people.
During this time, she regularly submitted reports to her supervisors about the group, documenting details of a possible affair between two activists, plans to bake cakes to raise money, film showings and a campaigner’s holiday to Albania. She also compiled a detailed report on a protest march organised by hundreds of children in 1972 to improve their schools.” [viii]
One of the meetings HN348 Sandra spied on that concerned the possibility of setting up a national movement of socialist women was only attended by two activists. She reported that attendees of one such meeting in Guildford, Surrey, in June 1972 were “a group of fairly moderate women with no particular political motivation who have recently been campaigning for nurseries in the Guildford area”. Appearing before the inquiry the now-retired police officer said: “I could have been doing much more worthwhile things with my time.” Sandra told the inquiry she did not think her work had “really yielded any good intelligence” although her deployment helped her superiors conclude that the Women’s Liberation Front did not pose any threat to public order.
Later in life, there was agreement from Diane Langford,
“I found it difficult to comprehend why our puny efforts caused so much concern to the authorities when everything we did was within the law and totally transparent.”
Posters protesting about undercover policing outside the Royal Courts of Justice in 2019. Photograph: David Rowe/Alamy Stock Photo
Suspicions specifically about HN45 Robertson were recalled in Diane Langford’s 2015 political memoir. The account, while amusing is hazy as to when the reported concerns were aired or acted upon by the RMLL.
“From time to time the police infiltrated our group. A moustachioed Scottish man, Dave Robertson, aroused suspicion because he was always driving a different car. When challenged he claimed to be working for a car rental firm. On another occasion he’d told me he worked at a club called the Tatty Bogle. One of the comrades went down to check it out and found this to be untrue. At Manu’s suggestion, we didn’t confront Dave, but assigned him the most onerous tasks: collecting heavy banners and placards in his car and carrying them on marches. He was always called upon to buy everyone drinks and asked to memorise long passages from James Maxton, an obscure Scottish Marxist.” [ix]
There was a ring-side seat for Special Branch in the fateful split in the RMLL as HN45 “Dave Robertson” attended a meeting was designed for some form of attack and almost to depose the leader, at the Saturday “Extraordinary meeting” March 13th 1971 at Lisburne Road. It was a long meeting, attended by 17 people that lasted from 1.30 in the afternoon to 10.30 at night.
As a bit of light relief, somebody played the guitar and set Chairman Mao’s speech “Take not a needle and a thread from the masses”, and that was sang to the group.
HN45’s note of the purpose of the meeting was: “… ‘to cut down to size’ the organisation’s leading personality A Manchanda … whose offensive manner, dogmatic attitude, bullying techniques and general inefficiency have become too much for even his admirers to swallow.”
His testimony at the Undercover Policy Enquiry was that “There was a lot of in-fighting amongst themselves that I took no part in”.
He claimed that “I didn’t really get deeply personal with any of those people, I just picked up what I — I found from people at the thing, and just dealt with it and reported it, and tried to put it into some semblance of order”
“Initially, Mr Manchanda [was to take] … the chair but because of the nature of the business to be discussed it was decided that he should vacate the chair, and [so somebody else was] … elected [for] chairman … [of] the meeting.” It appears that what then took place is that people gave speeches or discussions and delivered positions from documents that they had prepared in advance, and that they read from documents for some time. Do you recall being asked to prepare something in advance of the meeting?
You write there: “Manchanda, in his defence, launched into a characteristic diatribe ….
“… against certain members of the RMLL, particularly [Privacy and Privacy] and spoke for two hours, mainly spent in reading from a prepared statement …”
“The nub of his defence [he says] was that he had nothing to answer; everything had been done in the interests of the organisation and the working class.
You note however that he felt he had to plead IL health in dealing with the accusations during this meeting, that he produced his diabetics card, that he referred to the recent birth of his daughter,
“They are not really convinced either that his claim of sending his wife to work while he stays at home is a ‘practical example of Women’s Liberation’, is entirely virtuous.”
“There then followed a general discussion with [Privacy] speaking in Manchanda’s defence. [Privacy] read a copy of a letter she had previously sent to Manchanda making a very personal attack on the private morals of [Privacy] arising from an incident that had taken place sometime previously. This reduced [Privacy] to tears.”
whether or not Manchanda is expelled the damage to the RMLL is irreparable. Apart from Manchanda there is no one with sufficient personality to hold the organisation together and if his critics lose the [Privacy] day they have said too much for him to suffer their continued presence.” 1 A. Yes, I — that’s my — that must have been my view at the time, and I have no — no problem with that.
Ultimately that there was a vote to ask Mr Manchanda and indeed Diane Langford to withdraw from this group. [x]
The March 15th meeting was followed up with 18 people attending another Sunday meeting on the 28th March to resolve the crisis within the RMLL. [xi] Manchanda again chaired the meeting and read from a five page foolscap prepared speech, “he excused his own short comings by blaming the state of his health and he attacked certain other members…for laziness in their work in the organisation” reported the state infiltrator HN45. The conciliatory offer “to work in co-operation with others” did not withstand the accusations levelled at Manchanda of being a fraud and attacks upon Diane Langford. The differences between he two factions were unreconciled. Evidently there were five supporting Manchanda against an uneasy alliance of remaining dissident RMLL members and supporters.
Agreement to hold a further meeting on April 4th 1971 in an attempt to resolve the political deadlock was agreed. However the several attempts to reconcile the differences failed.
In the immediate aftermath of the split in the RMLL, a Special Branch report (dated May 20th 1971) noted that the dissident group of members continued to operate as RMLL claiming to have suspended Manu and Diane, ending the small weekly wages and assistance with rent and telephone bills. It stated the old RMLL never exceed ten full members attributing this directly to Manchanda’s “closed shop “ practices as the new RMLL refocused on a growth strategy based in West London beginning with Monday night political instruction classes.
The smaller supporters group of Manchanda, including Sonia Seedo, were working under the auspices of WLF hoping to overcome the dissident leadership and regain leadership of RMLL. And refusing to acknowledge their suspension from the RMLL.
We know more than just the police account of the split in the organisation as the internal maneuverings and intrigues of the short life of the RMLL was made public by the polemist Harpal Brar in the ACW attack publication, How Liberalism Split the REVOLUTIONARY MARXIST-LENINIST LEAGUE published in June 1972. [xii]
The ACW emerged, based on the Hemel Hampstead branch, after a split in August 1969 saw half the RMLL membership Leave the organization. With the new split in March 1971, the RMML ceased to function. The disintegration of the RMML was followed by a fallow period in Manchanda’s political activity: it coincided with a period of ill-health.
By August, the dissident faction announced the old RMLL dissolved and some of the former members – Mike & Sharon Earle and Chris & Dave Mackinnon – reconstituted themselves as the Marxist-Leninist Workers’ Association to carry on the political work of the old organisation. It was said to be modelled on the North London Alliance in defence of Workers Rights and received expressions of support from the Black Unity & Freedom Party, Schools Action Union, Marxist Leninist Education Association and Communist Federation of Great Britain (sic). By February 1972, Special Branch received reports that: “ Of the organisations which originally pledged support…only the Schools Action Union have actually done so.” The informant noted that the organisation had not been very active in the political field, not held any public meetings or commemoration since its inception. There had been poorly attended political classes and private meetings. Membership was estimated at no more than 15. Much of the political work has been channelled through the London Alliance of which there was dual membership. [xiii]
Still the wheels of police bureaucracy turned and in May 5th 1972 a report to Special Branch made the assessment that the British Vietnam Solidarity Front was “virtually inactive since the disintegration of the old Revolutionary Marxist Leninist League in the spring of 1970 which resulted from personal differences between Manchanda and others.”
Since then Manchanda has lost most of his credibility as a political Leader. Attempts to revive the BVSF met with no success when he “did not receive a single reply” when he sent a circular to various people and organisations to support a new campaign against the Vietnam war. Twenty turn up to a public meeting In Camden Studios he arranged; “all were personal contacts”.
Manchanda resiliently persist in campaigning and a further report dated January 18 1973 [xiv] provided details of a private meeting of the BVSF Committee attended by six people to organise for the demonstration against the inauguration of President Nixon with a march to Grovenor Square. It was like old times; every Maoist group in London, including the Internationalists, but not the CPB (ML) would be sending contingents to the Indo-China Solidarity Campaign organised march. Influenced by the Trotskyist International Marxist Group, Manchanda “is desperately trying to unite a maoist front in order to defeat the superior numbers of the IMG” noted the police spy, as they both vie to assert their waning influence.
Information on the state agent HN45 “Dave Robertson” and his activities can be found at https://powerbase.info/index.php/Dave_Robertson_(alias). HN45 was deployed undercover with the SDS between October 1970 until there was an incident that compromised his cover in December 1973 witnessed by Diane Langford at a meeting at the London School of Economics – when recognised by Ethel who looked straight at him, saying “Scotland Yard coming to arrest us” Notes from transcript of Tuesday, 27 April 2021
Subsequent unsourced quotations come from the various released file of the on-going Undercover Policing Inquiry.
[ii] Notes from HN45 transcript of Tuesday, 27 April 2021
[iii] Active in the group was (N.M. (Sonia) Seedo, holocaust survivor and writer; In the Beginning Was Fear by N. M. Seedo published by London : Narod Press, 1964 & They Sacrifice to Moloch (1967).
Inconstantly, intimate and up-close, Head of Seedo (1965) depicts the Romanian refugee and political writer Sonia Husid, one of Leon Kossoffs’ most regular sitters. Kossoff one of Britain’s most prolific figurative artists of the last century)
[iv] Diane Langford OPENING STATEMENT to THE UNDERCOVER POLICING INQUIRY
[v] Released File UCPI 00000027017 (Name XXXX redacted in released copy)
Infiltration by the state in the workers’ movement has a long pedigree, and within living memory there are numerous examples of the surveillance, manipulation and disruption of independent political organising that challenges the status quo regardless of its political allegiance. The flowering of protest in the late 1960s and 70s in Britain saw a vibrant and varied opposition that attracted the concealed attention of state agents. One element of the security apparatus, Special Branch, has had the lens focused upon its practices when spying on the Left, including the newly emergent forces of the anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninists in Sixties’ Britain through infiltration by field officers. The Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) was a covert unit under Special Branch supervision that existed within the Metropolitan Police Service between 1968 and 2008. So far the cover names of 45 out of a total of at least 144 undercover officers have been disclosed during the official Undercover Policing Inquiry. The tale of one anonymous clandestine spy, assigned the designation HN13, is an incomplete record through reports submitted on the marginal Far Left Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist). [i]
DC HN13 was an experienced office. He joined the Police Force in the late1960s and the Branch in the early1970s, then approached in 1974 to join the Special Demonstration Squad. Married with young children, there were no disclosures of improprieties involving, as with other undercover SDS field officers, seducing and fathering children of targeted activists. Prior to his deployment the CPEml had a name for headlong rushes into confrontations; whether Barry/ Desmond Loader was acting as ‘agent provocateurs’ is unknown however he was twice prosecuted for public order offences in his false cover name and convicted once. Despite this, the Undercover Policing Inquiry Chair, John Mitting, stated that there is no known allegation of misconduct during the deployment.
His widow confirmed in a very brief statement that he stole his cover surname from a deceased child from Wiltshire, and that he had told her of the surname during his deployment into the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) from 1975 to 1978. [ii]
Active in the East London Branch, Loader was also an active member of the Party’s cultural activities offshoot, the Progressive Cultural Association (PCA), and the East London Peoples Front, and the Outer East London Anti-Fascist Anti-Racist Committee. DC HN13’s reports provide a flavour of the activity and demands placed upon the activists of the CPEml in the period he was spying on them. Evidence of hype-activism that brunt out cadre evident in the singular account of attending a social, going back afterwards for a meeting that lasts into the early hours of next morning and then volunteering to provide the materials for a morning leafletting session!
He also filed reports on the activities of the Communist Unity Association (Marxist-Leninist).
Pictured below PCA leader, and CPEml Central Committee member , the composer Cornelius Cardew (1936-1981).
Confrontations with the Police
In the 1970s, members of the CPE had a reputation for rushing at police lines in demonstrations, seemingly without strategic consideration, that served to raise the group’s profile in relation to the police – and the CPEml became a target for Special Branch.
Party comrades who were leafleting were ‘brutally attacked’ whilst by the police at a demonstration in East Street market in South East London in 1972. Several received prison sentences.
The CPEml placed the confrontations and violence within an environment of a decaying capitalism:
Whilst increasing fascist legislation, the monopoly capitalists are also stepping up their harassment of working people and progressive organisations. In the last couple of years, large numbers of progressive people have been harassed, intimidated and attacked by the British police. Last December, some supporters of the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) were attacked by the London police and planted with drugs, ammunition, explosives and have been committed to trial at the Old Bailey on concocted charges. Comrade Lindsay Hutchinson, an active supporter of the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist), is at present serving a five year sentence on concocted charges of “malicious wounding” and “assault”. Many other progressive people and Irish patriots living in England have been given jail sentences of up to 30 years on concocted charges. Many workers pickets have been fascistically attacked by the police who encourage strike breakers to break the picket lines and attack striking workers: and working people have been murdered by the police. Is this not violence and terror of the highest order? [iii]
Following a police raid on a ‘house used by comrades and fabricated evidence’, in January 1974, four members of the party were found guilty of possession of petrol bombs and assaulting police. They received 12-month sentences for possession of petrol bombs and were fined for assaulting police.
Also in 1973/74, several party members were arrested for the (again, fabricated) charge of the theft of roof lead, after their car was stopped on Queens Town Road, Battersea.
Given the confrontational experience of members that saw members arrested (and identified) it comes as no surprise that Barry Loader’s reports are peppered with references on proposals by the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) to launch a campaign on behalf of its members on bail for offences arising from various demonstrations, and to organise pickets outside courts such as Redbridge Magistrates’ Court. This defence of democratic rights campaigning prove both time-consuming and energy sapping, with ramifications on the lives of members. Commenting in July 1978 on arrests at an Irish demonstration in Birmingham the previous May, Loader reported CPEml policy was that “although imprisonment is to be seen as a means of taking the political line into prisons, leading members should remain free to carry on their function within the Party.” Adding, “It is also likely that the cost of her appeal will be met from Central Party funds.”
No Platform and Anti-Fascism
In the 1970s across higher education campuses, students launched a number of protests at right-wing and fascist speakers. These incidents in the early 1970s were a ‘prelude’ to what became known as ‘No Platforming’ such speakers.
One well-publicised incident allegedly involved student members of the CPE from Birmingham and elsewhere:
On 8 May 1973, the psychologist Hans Eysenck, whose theories were rooted in the controversial theory of eugenics, attempted to deliver a lecture at the London School of Economics, but faced heavy protests from students. A group of Maoists stormed the stage and assaulted Eysenck.
The CPE (M-L) was also vocal and active in broader anti-fascist politics during the 1970s and early 1980s at a time when National Front was a rising force on the street and sometimes at the ballot box. During this time the NF was successfully challenged on the street by a variety of anti-fascist groups.
In 1974, the CPEml were also present at the Red Lion Square counter-fascist demo during clashes between anti-fascists and the police took place. During this violent confrontation, one protester Kevin Gately received severe head injuries from which he died. Members of the party also gave evidence at the subsequent public inquiry into the incident – which was chaired by Lord Scarman.
Loader reported on people involved in actions against the National Front (NF), such as the organisation of demonstrations, pickets, and leafletting and confronting the NF directly. Barry Loader attended the counter-NF demonstration, the Battle of Lewisham on 13 August 1977. He was injured during the event, receiving a blow to the head – the first of the two times he was assaulted by uniformed police.
Internal Special Branch documents show that Loader met to share his experience and provide recommendations for methods of policing future demonstrations with Deputy Assistant Commissioner along with Peter Collins (HN303), DCI Pryde and DI Willingale following the Lewisham demonstration. [iv]
ARRESTED TWICE & ‘BATTERED’ BY POLICE AGAIN
Loader was arrested twice while in his cover identity. The first occasion, in late 1977, was for ‘insulting or threatening behaviour’ following a clash with the NF outside Barking police station. Chief Inspector Craft of the SDS recorded that Loader was ‘somewhat battered by police prior to his arrest’ [v]
Seven other individuals from Loader’s group were also arrested. Superintendent Pryde maintained contact with a court official during the proceedings in April 1978. He informed them that one of the defendants was a police informant who they would be ‘anxious to safeguard from any prison sentence’ [vi]
Ultimately, the charges against Loader were dismissed. Three of the other seven individuals were found guilty and fined on 12 April 1978 [vii]
Just three days after his court appearance, Loader was arrested a second time during trouble at a National Front meeting held at Loughborough School, Brixton on 15 April 1978.
He was again charged with threatening behaviour under s.5 of the Public Order Act 1936, along with three others [viii]
At the hearing, an application was made to hear all the defendants’ cases together. However, the Magistrates decided to hear Loader’s case alone. This was, allegedly, because Loader had been involved in a separate incident to the other defendants, who had infiltrated an NF meeting while Loader stayed outside.
In fact, records reveal that Superintendent Pryde established contact with a court official during the proceedings and told them that one of the defendants was:
‘a valuable informant in the public order field whom we would wish to safeguard from a prison sentence should the occasion arise’.
Unlike the previous arrest, however, it is noted that Loader’s cover name was specifically given to the official [ix]
All the defendants, in this case, were found guilty, with Loader being fined and given a one-year bind-over of £100. It is noted in the Minute Sheet that this sentence was considered ‘very useful’ as it would allow Loader to keep a low profile for the remainder of his deployment [x]
It was not all confrontations on days out in the CPEml. Other activities included in loader’s reports map out the activists’ busy schedule of meetings and commitments. From supplying accounts of private meetings of the East London Branch of the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) held at Barking Polytechnic, various planning meetings to small social gatherings, the files of Special Branch were filled with minutiae of undercover intelligence gathering, including the gossip about individuals from CPEml and Indian Workers Movement living together thought worthy of inclusion in Special Branch’s intelligence files, along with reports on individual “comrades”, an active member of the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) who failed to attend court on charges of assault, and his efforts to avoid arrest moving to Canada and changing his name. Loader providing a description of his current appearance for the files.
A National Conference of the CPE(ML) on the anniversary of the October Revolution to be held in Birmingham at the YMCA, late October 1977 drew the attention of SDS coordinating with West Midlands Special Branch even though they acknowledged, “There is no public order issue involved”. Photographic surveillance was arranged, it was “hoped that a good identification of national membership and information on the future policies of the C.P.E. -M.L. will result.” [xi]
The attendance was estimated at around 200 and included SDS Field Officer, HN 13 “Desmond /Barry Loader” who was well-practiced on reporting on the CPE (ML).
Among the SDS reports put into the public domain when released by the Public Inquiry included those on open public events, of both the CPEml and its associated organisations (like the Progressive Cultural Association, PCA) when Loader took the opportunity to purloined the contact sheet from PCA events and names were cross referenced with existing Special Branch files [xii]
There were also internal PCA evening meetings, such as that held 15th May 1977 in Belsize Park NW3 attended by 30. Others covered a meeting of the Progressive Cultural Association to discuss its activities in a proposed anti-monarchy campaign.
In July 1977 a report submitted on a meeting of the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) held under the broad front-group name of Outer East London Anti-Fascist Anti-Racist with Indian Defence Committee in Ilford. When that faltered CPEml broad front activities were consolidated in a new organisation, entitled the People’s Front.
By February 1978 Loader reported the CPEml was engaged in a “rigorous self-examination” with the leadership conscious of drift within the organisation.
The previous Christmas 1977, as an “alternative to the feudal, bourgeois Christian festival”, a national meeting of CPEml had been arranged December 23rd to January 1st. (A not uncommon gesture as another group arranged a Standing Committee meeting for Christmas Day morning!).
Some 60 persons were present in Birmingham (referred to as new centre of CPEml). However, the context of the systematic shift in political allegiance and political identification with the positions of the Party of Labour of Albania are missing from the Special Branch reports. Its historic First Congress was held in 1978. [xiii]
Much of the main address given by Carol Reakes was published as an extract in issue 63 of Workers Weekly. At the previous October 1977 Birmingham conference on Trostskyism, she told members that what was needed was “considerable improvements needed” in the regularly, distribution and study of the paper, Workers’ Weekly. A familiar exhortation on the Left.
The emphasis on building an industrial base, the organisation of the masses around one party (them), developing a leading role in the anti-fascist/anti-racist struggle and the ‘Bolshevization’ of the CPEml especially in relation to its internal discipline. All these themes occurred at this time across the spectrum of anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninist groups in Britain. In London the CPEml’s emphasis was Ford’s at Dagenham. The more industrially established Communist Party of Britain (ML) was identified as the organisation’s main Left opponent in this period.
What was announced was the formation of the ‘Little Red Guards’, despite the misgivings of a minority, Barry Loader reported to Special Branch that “their inaugural ceremony involved the receiving of a red scarf (to be worn when meeting) an address from Carol REAKES on the significance of their role and the singing of revolutionary children’s songs”. Some 12 children are “believed to be involved” age range 4-10 years. They will meet on a Saturday “to be given a ‘low key’ political talk in the morning on basic issues, such as evolution and the history of labour in the morning, and in the afternoon taken on an outing to places of interests, such as the docks or a ferry crossing.”
January 1978 saw a joint Indian Workers Movement/CPEml East London branch meeting to “denounce the sham of India’s Republic Day” (January 28th), and after the mobilisation for the “Bloody Sunday Commemoration march, an evening concert organised by PCA at the Trinity Community Centre, East Avenue E12 under the slogan “British Imperialism Out of Ireland!”
Commensurate with significant anti-fascist activity, there was a probable fascist attack on the election headquarters of the South London People’s Front in the 1978 Lambeth Central by-election. Coincidentally, going against the documentary evidence of Barry Loader’s infiltration, the recollection of Michael Chant, the current party General Secretary, was that Loader did not appear until 1978 at election hustings in for the constituency of central Lambeth where Stuart Monro stood under ‘South London People’s Front’. Michael Chant recalled that:
“In the Lambeth Central by-election of 1978, Stuart Monro stood as a candidate representing the South London People’s Front, supported by CPE(ML). A campaign centre was set up in a private house in Stockwell, where mailing out of election leaflets, organising of canvassers, and other activities took place. It was only at this time that Barry Loader […] appeared and offered to help. Given he had no known links to any progressive activity and his general bearing, he was immediately suspected of being an undercover policeman. However, following Lenin’s dictum to put suspected spies to useful, but not compromising work, he was assigned to washing-up duties in the kitchen, large-scale cooking being required to feed the election volunteers. Loader carried out his duties diligently, but was not invited to any discussions or to participate in any planning activities. When the election period ended, he disappeared, and a visit to the address he had given revealed only an empty bed-sit.”
A post-script to Loader’s career was that a note made of a meeting with Commander Buchanan in 2013 suggests that Loader had difficulty reintegrating with the police following his deployment [xiv]
The successor party to the CPE, the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) were later infiltrated by another SDS officer Malcolm Shearing (alias) between 1981 and 1985. [xv]
E N D N O T E S
[i] These notes on HN13 – known as ‘Barry’ rather than ‘Desmond’ by former CPEml members – and his activities draws heavily from the work undertaken by the Undercover Research Portal at Powerbase – investigating corporate and police spying on activists.
Undercover Policing Inquiry released Special branch documents in May 2021 related to the activity of HN13 cover names “Desmond Loader/Barry loader”, an active member of the Special Demonstration Squad (1975-19778) assigned to infiltrate and spy upon the Communist Party of England (Marxist-Leninist) .
Indispensable is the ongoing independent work produced by both Dónal O’Driscoll of Undercover Research Group and journalist Rob Evans on the Spycops.
In Indonesia, in September 1965 the rumours of a coup d’etat being organized by the Council of Generals, indicate that the Army generals will move on October 5, 1965, the national celebration day of Defense.
The so-called September 30th movement against the coup plans of the generals is formed by the communists, under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Untung, the commander of the 3rd Sukarnos’ bodyguard. It goes public with a press release and tries to eliminate approximately 60 generals, but only succeeds with six, rather unimportant ones. Progressive officers with the support of the PKI want to eliminate the ‘Against the People’ side of state power, which leads to a right-wing coup. The PKI then claimed that Sukarno would not allow all communists to be killed. In reality, the chairman of the PKI, D.N. Aidit, Lukman and other leaders of the PKI and the trade unions were amongst those brutally murdered in widespread massacres unleashed by the military.
The IndonesianTribune published in its January issue (No.3) the self-criticism adopted by the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in September 1966. The self-criticism entitled “Build the PKI Along the Marxist-Leninist Line to Lead the People’s Democratic Revolution in Indonesia”, says that the disaster which has caused such serious losses to the PKI and the revolutionary movement of the Indonesian people after the outbreak and the defeat of the September 30th Movement has lifted up the curtain which for a long period has hidden the grave weaknesses of the PKI.
An editorial in Hongqi [RedFlag], No.11, 1967, People of Indonesia, Unite and Fight to Overthrow the Fascist Regime, commented
“… the Political Bureau of the Indonesian Communist Party sums up the experience and lessons of the Party in leading the Indonesian people’s revolutionary struggle, criticises the right opportunist errors committed by the leadership of the Party in the past, points out the road for the Indonesian revolution, and lays down the principles for future struggle.” [i]
The Banned Thought website, notes that the PKI self-criticism, republished by Beijing’s FLP in a pamphlet “People of Indonesia, Unite and Fight to Overthrow the Fascist Regime”, (Peking: FLP, 1968), was co-authored by Sudisman, (the fourth-ranking PKI leader before October 1963) assumed the party’s leadership and led the Political Bureau after the murder of the Aidit by the Army during the 1965 massacres.
“Apparently the full document (which is not included in the pamphlet from China) specifically blames Aidit for the revisionist road after 1951 and the resulting catastrophe. But the ideological thrust of the self-criticism is against the so-called Bandung theses, a revisionist line that led to uncritical support of Sukarno among other things. Sudisman himself was arrested by the fascist regime in December 1966, put through a show-trial in 1967-68, and then executed. This PKI self-criticism was publicized internationally, especially by another Political Bureau member, Jusuf Adjitorop, who was based in Beijing after 1965.”
He was in China when the 1965 massacre occurred part of a sizeable delegation that had travelled to the People’s Republic of China to participate in the anniversary celebration of the Chinese Revolution. Others had left Indonesia to study in Eastern Europe, including Albania. Despite the terror inside Indonesia, the party’s skeleton apparatus continued to function in exile.
The PKI self-criticism that emerged from militants in China was distributed internationally, this was publicised in broad terms by oversea ML organisations in the Federal republic of Germany, the KPD / ML-ZK, summarised the new program as the three banners:
– Building a ML Party free from subjectivism, opportunism and revisionism, – armed agrarian revolutionary struggle of the people under the leadership of the party and – revolutionary united front against feudalism, bureaucratic imperialism, based on the class alliance of the workers with the poor peasants under the leadership of the party. [ii]
In the aftermath of the massacres, revisionist lies and their defamation of the People’s Republic of China was evident in their portrayal of the counterrevolutionary coup d’état in Indonesia in 1965. In their historical falsification, they claimed that it was the Mao Tse-tung ideas that disarmed the Indonesian Communist Party and then plunged it into a coup adventure. “The tragic consequences of the events of September 30th, which were inspired by the ‘ideas of Mao tse-tung’, showed the damage that Beijing’s adventurous policies can do to the national liberation movement.”
German Maoists protested that:
“The social-imperialists are now unscrupulously twisting the facts and presenting the desperate attempt by progressive sections of the army under Lieutenant Colonel Untung to fend off the counterrevolutionary coup as the real cause of the counterrevolution. We recognize the core of this argument again: whoever leads the fight against fascism is calling fascism on the scene. Anyone who aggressively fights imperialism must reckon with its annihilation by imperialism.
The lesson: If the Communist Party does not prepare itself and the people in good time and on all sides for the path of armed struggle, it will subject the masses to imperialist rule. The Indonesian example shows who is going this way. The lesson that the Indonesian CP itself has drawn from its defeat is just as clear: Maintaining friendship with the modern revisionists’ means giving up the resolute struggle against imperialism. ” [iii]
In addition there was criticism of the Soviet Union’s stance of maintaining a normal and political trading relationship (in much the manner China was criticised for in relation to the military coup in Chile in 1973). The Communist League drew a direct connection when in February 1974, the KB publishes the third revised edition of the brochure “Chile from ‘peaceful transition’ to fascist military dictatorship” with the article “How the Indonesian CP criticized its mistakes after the fascist military coup in 1965” [iv]
Very quickly a union delegation from the SU arrives in Indonesia in January 1967 “to exchange views on common interests” in the aftermath of the military smashing the PKI’s trade union organisation. The ‘Komsomolskaja Pravda’ in an article on Indonesia (in March 1967 1967) argued , it is early to judge the policies of the new Indonesian government, but if the current leaders see to it that the country does not fall under imperialist influence, Indonesia deserves a leading place in the modern world. “
Following the massacres of half a million people, members and sympathisers of the Partai Komunis Indonesia/Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) by Indonesian military and civilian allies in 1965-6, those communists and progressives aboard wisely stay there avoiding the murderous repression of the Suharto regime that saw between 600,000 and 750,000 people were imprisoned.
For exiled members and sympathizers [v] of the pro-Chinese Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) there was a dilemma of where they should be based to rebuild the opposition to the military regime. Beijing was an option rejected as the dominant view was that neither the Chinese government nor the PKI wished for the party would be perceived as too closely linked to China. The seemingly unlikely choice of the Albanian capital Tirana offered a number of positive possibilities. It was a friendly environment for the PKI who had opted not to condemn the Albanian party at the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1961. The PKI could operate in a supportive political environment, indeed In March 1967 Radio Tirana broadcasts in Indonesian twice daily. (Radio Tirana discontinued its Indonesian broadcasts in 1991).
Geographically Albania was close to other centres of exiled Indonesian student activists across Eastern Europe. In the early 1960s, scholarships had been offered to Indonesians to study in countries such as Rumania, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, the Soviet Union and Hungary and, by September 1965, hundreds of Indonesian students had received scholarships to study in the Eastern bloc.
Tirana was already a destination for Indonesia party members studying and working in the capital. A political presence made clear at the 5th congress of the Party of Labour of Albania (PPSh) in November 1966. The PKI delegation at the congress was led by Jusuf Adjitorop, a candidate member of the PKI politburo before the coup. He survived the purge of PKI by being in China for medical treatment prior to the coup.
In his address to the Albanian party congress, Adjitorop called for the reconstruction of PKI under the banner of Marxism–Leninism and Mao Tse-Tung Thought, calling for protracted armed struggle of the peasantry to overthrow the rule of Suharto and Nasution. [vi]
According to Prof. Justus van der Kroef there were about forty Indonesian communists staying in Tirana in the early 1970s, around half of them organized in the Persatuan Peladjar Indonesia (‘Indonesian Students Association’). The Tirana-based group were assumed to act as spokespersons of the party. [vii]
An English-language bimonthly journal, Indonesian Tribune, was issued from Tirana. The publishing house of Indonesian Tribune was called Indonesia Progresif (‘Indonesian Progressive’). The Persatuan Peladjar Indonesia (‘Indonesian Students Association’) in Albania published the journal Api Pemuda Indonesia (‘Flame of Indonesian Youth’).
Swie Siauw Poh and Ernest Pinontoean were key organizers of the Tirana group. The writer Chalik Hamid, who had travelled to Albania to study journalism before the coup, was one of the members of the group that produced Indonesian Tribune and Api Pemuda Indonesia and worked as translator for Radio Tirana. He stayed in Albania until 1989.
The account given to journalist Martin Aleida who interviewed Chalik Hamid, in Tirana, had API started by Anwar Dharma, an ex-correspondent of the PKI’s Harian Rakjat (People’s Daily) in Moscow who had reported on his unwarranted expulsion by the Soviet authorities due to his critical views towards them (Dharma 1966). Anwar Dharma then moved to China and was instructed by the Delegation of the Indonesian Communist Party in Beijing to go to Albania to start there a publication in Indonesian and in English. After his arrival in Tirana, Anwar Dharma also initiated an Indonesian programme for Radio Tirana. (Chalik Hamid was one of Anwar Dharma’s first contact persons in Tirana, and it was him who taught Dharma to speak Albanian).
Chalik Hamid on his role in Albania suggested it is not entirely correct to say that it was an official command from the PKI as the party was already disbanded. The PKI’s remnants in Beijing at that time, even in the publications of API never called themselves as PKI but as Delegasi CC PKI (‘The Delegation of CC PKI’) [viii]
“API – Api Pemuda Indonesia” (‘Flames of Indonesian Youth’) had two different editions of API were issued, one in the Indonesian language, the other in English and/or French, both with differing contents and The Indonesian version is published monthly, but the English/French edition bi-monthly.
Indonesian Tribune and Api Pemuda Indonesia were the two main organs of the pro-Chinese PKI. These publications were illegal inside Indonesia, and one could be arrested for possessing a copy
The political ideology of API which was already stated on the title page Marxisme – Leninisme – FMTT is discussed in every issue of API. There is a section called Belajar Marxisme – Leninisme – Fikiran Mao Tje Tung (‘Learning about Marxism – Leninism – Thoughts of Mao’) which usually contains translated works of Marx, Lenin or Mao and sometimes also an analysis of their works.
The magazine had a section called Komentar Radio Tirana (‘Commentaries of Radio Tirana’) which provided insights about some particular issues which were trending at that time. In March 1967 Radio Tirana started to broadcast in Indonesian twice a day, therefore it seems likely that this section was a highlight of the broadcasting materials of every month.
Tirana was also convenient for communication with solidarity organizations operating in Western Europe. For example, in the Federal Republic of Germany, solidarity is practiced at universities, for example in Munich (1967/ 1968), later also in Tübingen (1969) and in Heidelberg (1969),
A group, the Indonesia Working Group, in Cologne were active and Indonesians in Berlin regularly published Mengabdi Rakyat as a bulletin to oppose the New Order regime. [ix] The Indonesian Revolutionary Group (GRI), from Berlin, were students organising in the Federal republic of Germany.
Representatives of the Indonesian youth group in the FRG built working relationship with local German the Marxist-Leninist K-Groups, Rote Fahne reports their presence In Cologne when the KPD held a major rally at the end of its 1st party congress (June 26, 1974) with 6,000 people.
Solidarity activities in protest to the two-day visit of the Indonesian President Suharto to the Federal Republic of Germany in September 1970 were organised by exiled Indonesians, their supporters and German Maoists such as the KPD / ML local group Frankfurt call for a demonstration , an Indonesia Teach In was organised in Bonn and awareness raising material published such as at the University of Tübingen were the student Marxist-Leninist groups distributed an article “The Indonesian people in the anti-fascist struggle “. [x]
The KPD / ML carried an article in Roter Morgen on “10 years of fascist dictatorship in Indonesia. Heroic armed struggle of the Indonesian communists”. [xi]
Next door Indonesians in the Netherlands, partly due to its past colonial links to the region, had established communities and developed solidarity networks that saw the Tirana produced API distributed by mail to Indonesia; safer to post from non-Eastern bloc states , such as the Netherlands. Daraini’s study refers to several Dutch organizations: Indoc, and an organization initiated by the founder of Indonesian Studies in the Netherlands, Professor Wim Wertheim I (1907-1998) to support the struggle of human rights’ issues in Indonesia under the governance of New Order, Komitee Indonesië, a solidarity group with the oppressed and democracy activists in Indonesia, and PPI Amsterdam. The latter student organization was renowned for being progressive in comparison with another, similar student organization. PPI Amsterdam at that time published a bulletin called Berita Indonesia (Indonesian News) distributed to various places including Australia and the USA.
Solidarity activities around Indonesia from 1975 became conflated with campaigning on the issue Indonesian aggression in East Timor e.g. Tapol in the UK promoting human rights, peace and democracy in Indonesia, established in 1973 by Carmel Budiardjo, a political prisoner in Indonesia . [xii]
June 1976 saw a three-day international conference on East Timor and Indonesia begins in Bonn: “The organizers were the Journal of Contemporary Asia (Stockholm / London) and the Bonn Committee for the Independence of East Timor.” [xiii]
The experience of exile elsewhere _ Beijing
The exile community in China was quite diverse and consisted of PKI members and sympathisers, students who had been studying in the Eastern bloc and in the Soviet Union, and pro-Sukarno people. On 30 September 1965, there happened to be a 500-strong Indonesian delegation in China for celebrations of China’s national day, 1 October, which marked the twenty-sixth anniversary of the Chinese Revolution.
Some members of this politically diverse delegation stayed in China but not all. The Beijing contingent grew as many PKI members left the Soviet Union for China due to splits inside the PKI. In China, a separate party leadership emerged, known as the Delegation of the Indonesian Communist Party. Mirroring Sino-Soviet rivalries, the Delegation urged Indonesian leftists in the USSR to join them in China. Hundreds did so. These rival factions were separated by mutual distrust until they each disbanded toward the close of the cold war.
“There were debates among party members about ‘what had gone wrong’ with the PKI, including questions about why there had been no resistance to the military purges. Older PKI members from the pre- Aidit period (before 1951) argued that the party leadership had placed too much trust in President Sukarno and that, by operating wholly as a legal party, the leadership had exposed the membership to grave dangers of political repression. Debates within the exile community in China exposed the inter-generational differences in political experience and these were testament to the growth and development of the PKI as a mass party between 1951 and 1965. The situation led to dissatisfaction among the exiles and added to the uncertainty of their stay in China.” [xiv]
For members of the Indonesian and Filipino Communist Parties living in China during the Cultural Revolution, political upheavals in their home countries—the September Thirtieth Movement in Indonesia in 1965 and the Plaza Miranda Bombing in Manila in 1972—turned their originally temporary travels abroad into long-term exiles. The rise of anti-communist, authoritarian regimes led respectively by Suharto and Marcos made it unsafe for these exiles to go back and stranded them indefinitely in another land.
The foreign policy pivot at the start of the Seventies saw the 1972 Sino-US rapprochement, and China redirected its foreign policies and retracted its support for foreign revolutionary forces. As China sought normalization of diplomatic relations with Suharto’s Indonesia and Marcos’ Philippines, the exiles’ very existence became an embarrassment to Beijing.
The Chinese government moved them in the early 1970s from Beijing to Nanchang, 1250 km away, the provincial capital of the landlocked Jiangxi in southeast China. Taomo Zhou observed that as for the exiles, many had left for Western countries by the early 1980s. The Indonesians who stayed became naturalized Chinese citizens and some even transformed themselves into devoted advocates for Deng Xiaoping’s “socialism with Chinese characteristics”.
Living in Moscow
David Hill has explored the phenomenon of Indonesians living in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) when the military regime came to power in their homeland. [xvi] Moscow was a popular destination for Indonesian students in the late 1950s and early 1960s when the Soekarno regime pursued both socialism and close ties with the Soviet Union. By mid-1965 when General Suharto seized power in the country and began his purges on communists, several thousand Indonesian students were enrolled in various courses in Soviet universities.
With the rise in Jakarta’s New Order under Major-General Suharto after October 1965 saw thousands of Indonesians abroad effectively isolated. Faced with detention or execution if they returned home, Indonesian leftists and other dissidents became unwilling exiles. Several thousand Indonesians were then studying in the USSR, where they were one of the largest foreign nationalities in Soviet universities and military academies.
After the 1965–66 purges in the Soviet Union, as in the Indonesian Students Association in Czechoslovakia (Perhimpunan Pelajar Indonesia, PPI) there was a split between the pro- and anti-Suharto camps. Those ideologically inclined decided to move to China. The most influential grouping of Indonesians who remained in Moscow after 1965 was known as the Overseas Committee of the Indonesian Communist Party. They echoed the Soviet positions, calling the KPI line before the coup on September 30, 1965, the Chinese line and advocated the united front with Sukarno and Suharto. Around 2,000 choose to stay in the Soviet Union. Revisionist supporting Indonesian exiles in Moscow published a Russian-Bahasa Indonesia journal in the 1970s titled OPI, an abbreviation of the organization’s title Organisasi Pemuda Indonesia. The journal focussed on Indonesian politics and the role of young people.
There were fragments elsewhere and Vannessa Hearman writes of “The last men in Havana: Indonesian exiles in Cuba” . A small group of six Indonesians exiled from Suharto’s New Order regime who settled in Cuba from the early 1970s onwards. [xvii]
[iv]KB: Chile from the ‘peaceful transition’ to the fascist military dictatorship, Hamburg 1974
See also : Dharma, Anwar (1966): Soviet Revisionists’ Shameless Collaboration with Indonesia’s Fascist Military Regime Condemned. Beijing Review No. 42, 14 October 1966, 30–32
[v] Knowledge of the Indonesian exile communities did not grow until the 2000s attracting some academic research. The life stories of how they found themselves in exile and the social and political issues they faced are appearing in studies
Hill, D. T. (2008). Knowing Indonesia from Afar: Indonesian exile and Australian Academics (pp. 1–13).
Hill, D. T. (2010). Indonesia’s exiled Left as the Cold War thaws. Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs, 44(1), 21–51. 70
Hill, D. T. (2014). Indonesian Political Exiles in the USSR. Critical Asian Studies, 46(4), 621–648.
Sipayung, B. A. (2011). Exiled Memories: The Collective of Indonesian 1965 Exiles. International Institute of Social Studies.
Ibnu Nadzir Daraini (2017) Imagining the Homeland: The use of the Internet among Indonesian Exiles in the Netherlands
Looking at the Aginter Press, and the attempted intrigue and neo-fascist contamination by the Far Right, which with Portuguese sponsorship, reached into the anti-revisionist movement involves a transnational look at Switzerland and beyond. The contradictions and weakness of the first Swiss anti-revisionist organisation, the Swiss Communist Party, led by Gerald Bulliard, secretary general of the party, provided an avenue for attempts from the Far Right to infiltrate those international forces engaged in anti-colonial armed struggle in Africa through maoist solidarity activity based in Switzerland. This preliminary attempt to unpick the various strands that are woven into a narrative of far right intrigue draws upon the existing literature in the absence of archival evidence or known Marxist-Leninist analysis.
The French leftist daily Liberation reported disturbing allegations that Portuguese documents reveal journalistic cover of the European press service, “Aginter Press” for an international fascist group. Evidence pointed to Aginter director Yves Guillou, alias Guerin Seracy and another Frenchman, Robert Leroy, as being the principle organizers of many of the bomb explosions in Italy associated with a “strategy of tension” including the one in December 1969 at a Milan bank, leaving sixteen people dead and over one hundred wounded. Several leftists are arrested and charged with the bombings and jail on false convictions.
According to Italian police report, Aginter Press served as a cover for an international fascist organization responsible for the planning and execution of many fascist attacks throughout Europe in the late 1960 early 1970s.
It also link group to bombings and counter insurgency and arms traffic. Liberation reported, an investigation by officers of the Portuguese Armed Forces Movement (MFA) that overthrew the Portuguese dictatorship in April 1974, corroborated the findings of the Italian investigation.
“On the night of May 2l, 1974, the questioning of one PIDE agent revealed that the Lisbon-based Aginter Press Agency had served as a base of support for PIDE, and as a center for the coordination of the activities of related fascist organizations in other countries.”
A searched of the deserted offices of Aginter Press, revealed information and archives on the activities of the agency, as well as facilities for the manufacture of false documents. This archive provided the main source for the prime exploration, the French-language study by Frederick Laurent, L ‘ Orchestre Noir published in 1978 in Paris.
Propaganda and Intrigue
Swiss Maoism was one of the stories Julia Lovell’s interesting global history of Maoism choose not to dwell on.[i] Certainly it was of negligible effect upon Swiss society but there was a disproportionate interest in the early days of the anti-revisionist movement there, not least due to the presence of, what was thought to be, the centre of China’s propaganda effort based in Switzerland, which aroused the interest of state agencies domestically and externally.
Switzerland, in January 1950, was one of the first Western nations to recognize the People’s Republic of China. Switzerland soon became a hub for the PRC’s diplomatic and trade activities throughout Western Europe, and was regarded as the centre of their propaganda effort in Western Europe. [ii]
The Chinese embassies were often the first call for the curious and did have a supportive role in developing friendship diplomacy, answering queries and supplying material on China such as pamphlets and Chinese magazines (and later the Little Red Book) on request. Adverse comments on the implication of Chinese authorities in the functioning of the friendship associations, proved more speculation than evidence about the role of the Chinese Embassy in Switzerland.
In the early 1960s Switzerland had two large Chinese diplomatic establishments – in Berne and Geneva – as well as the offices of Hsinhua (Xinhua News Agency / New China News Agency). The Berne-based staff in the embassy was larger than that in London, and only the Americans and Soviet embassy staffing was larger. Although Knüsel (2020) notes the Chinese staff included its catering and support staff unlike other embassies which used local services. Sections of the Swiss establishment took the view (shared by intelligent agencies) that Switzerland had been selected to play an important role in China’s strategy on the European continent – a position weakened when the Chinese embassy in Paris was established in 1964. By August 1967, as China withdrew its diplomatic staff worldwide, there were only 37 Chinese diplomats and officials left in Switzerland
A domestic factor was the anti-communist hysteria of the time that had shaped Swiss politics reflected in local media comment on the activities of the Chinese embassy. The Zurich weekly, Schweizer Illustrierte alleged
“It is beyond all question that not only is there gross overstaffing in it, but for years subversive and secret service activities have been organised there for a substantial portion of Europe.” (February 17th 1967)
Commenting on the atmosphere of the time, one journalist observed
“Political and cultural life in Switzerland in the 1950s was characterized by a particularly fervent anti-Communism. This position was sustained by Swiss authorities as they promoted “spiritual national defense,” a policy that consisted—in the struggle against Soviet influence—of subsidies for patriotic works of art or essays and the covert prosecution of citizens (in particular, intellectuals and artists) suspected of having Communist sympathies.” [iii]
The “Schweizerische Aufklärungsdienst” (Swiss Enlightenment Service, known by its initials SAD), founded in 1947 as the private successor to a state propaganda organisation, was a key player. SAD members sought to explain the dangers of Communism at lectures and conferences across the country, often with state financing. Only made legal in 1945 the Swiss Labour Party (Partei der Arbeit, or PdA) was mocked as the “Party of Foreigners” (Partei des Auslands) and its members were declared to be the enemy within. Their premises were attacked, several were fired from their jobs, and others were physically assaulted. [iv]
The Berne office of the New China News Agency provided reports, or propaganda as western commentators inevitably described them, for other pro-Chinese publications and interested parties. In 1963 it was commonly referred to as “a centre for the distribution throughout western Europe of Sino-Albanian propaganda”. The local Swiss media would inform its readers:
“This work, which is conducted by international agents for the cause of Mao Tse-Tung, is naturally supplemented in Western Europe by a heavy interlarding of suitable propaganda materials from the translator’s offices of the Chinese missions. But now everybody knows there are only three of them in Western Europe, namely in London, in Brussels, and in Bern.”[v]
The commercial distribution of magazine like Peking Review[vi] lay with local subscriptions agents often associated with the local communist party thus there was some diversification of suppliers to various non-revisionist groups. In Switzerland Nils Andersson, of a small progressive publishing house in Lausanne, played a part in the distribution of Chinese produced pamphlets stating its anti-revisionist case as well as Pekin Information. Andersson had published books censored in France in the midst of the Algerian war, followed by the publication of Mao Tse-tung’s works in French. Accused of subversion, in1967, the Federal Council voted for his expulsion for “endangering the internal and external security of Switzerland”.
The local Swiss media alleged that another group led by Gerard Bulliard had received large subsidies from the Chinese Embassy in Bern for their publication L’Etincelle over a period of fourteen months.[vii] The Zurich weekly Schwezer Illustrierte claimed Bulliard himself had received about £23,800 (286,000 francs), payment ending when he “lost favour” and the Chinese began supporting Nils Andersson.[viii] The Chinese authorities subscribed to hundreds of copies of Andersson’s Octobre publication through the state bookstore for foreign languages. This import of foreign books and periodicals did help to finance the emerging pro-Chinese movement in Switzerland and elsewhere. The Swiss Federal police had intercepted the order from China in its monitoring of the organisation.
Drawing upon Albanian archives Elidor Mehilli made the observation that in the early 1960s
“Albania’s party devised a special hard currency solidarity fund to assist Marxist-Leninists groups around the world. Initially it consisted of 700,000 US dollars. China issued half a million, and the rest came from internal funds. Here was the ruling party of a country that still struggled to feed its inhabitants, projecting itself as a source of revolutionary activism in the Third World and in Western Europe. In 1964, the party Secretariat disbursed money to marginalized Polish Marxist-Leninists; the Belgian Communist Party; the Communist Party of Brazil; the Communist Party of Peru; the Italian Marxist-Leninist paper Nuova Unita; and groups in Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, and Columbia. Activists in Australia and Ceylon were hired as foreign correspondents for the party daily. Small sums also went to a coterie of Marxist-Leninist characters in Paris and London (the short lived Committee to Defeat Revisionism, for Communist Unity), as well as in Vienna. The United States-based Hammer and Steel received modest contributions as well.”[ix]
The visits of foreign Marxist-Leninist to Albania were noted by the security forces: approximately one trip to Albania each year by Swiss Maoists in the period of 1964-1970 and 974-77. These contacts, note Cordoba and Liu, aroused the curiosity of the police and led to a lot of speculation about possible subversion and guerrilla and espionage training camps.[x]
By late 1966, Knüsel (2020) calculates about 50 pro-Chinese organisations were thought to exist in Western Europe. The Embassy in Bern was regarded as been the hub for contact with these organisations, and the Swiss government suspected that the Embassy assisted these groups financially. Chinese officials also collected information about left-wing organisations and their publications.[xi]
Swiss media carried red-scare reports that the Swiss police had proved that the Chinese Embassy in Berne had promoted and supported subversive ventures through Europe. Schweizer Illustrierte alleged that 18 pro-Chinese Austrian communists had been on unspecified training course at the embassy and half a dozen pro-Chinese French communist had been given money and material by the Chinese embassy to split the much larger Moscow-orientated Parti Communiste Français, PCF. (February 17th 1967)
Whereas, unlike the courses provided for some by China’s military training at the Nanjing military academy [see Lovell, Maoism: A Global History] , the Swiss activists annual political pilgrimages to Albania mainly coincided with significant state and party anniversaries and had the character of political tourism with a more familiar itinerary of factories, schools, cultural events and historical monuments. Other visitors, like the Spanish MLs, had a different itinerary and agenda in Albania.
Politicised friendship as expressed in friendship associations saw the creation of pro-regime groupings throughout Europe, often energised by maoist activists but not always controlled by them. Cyril Cordoba and Liu Kaixuan, building upon dissertation work entitled “Beyond the Bamboo Curtain: Sino-Swiss cultural relations and political friendships (1949-1989)”, discusses the implication of Chinese influence in the functioning of the friendship associations, especially the role of the Chinese Embassy in Switzerland. This was never crudely directive rather a more self-correcting mechanism by members seeking “friendship with China”.
The Associations suisses d’amitié avec la Chine in Switzerland which spread “friendship with China”, were unofficial regarded as part of the global Chinese “foreign affairs [waishi]” system that has attracted academic interest in recent years. The friendship associations throughout the world received material from the Chinese export company Guozi Shudian for distribution at generous discounts, if not free and they could use the benefits of the sales and magazines subscriptions as an important source of income. The role of such associations were part of the people-to-people tier of Chinese foreign diplomacy and while reflecting Chinese foreign policy priorities, they were not lobbying or influencers on their local state although occasional strayed into the realm of foreign diplomacy.
An uncritical allegiance to whatever was coming out of China was a characteristic of most of the friendship organisations that reflected the orthodoxy of supportive analysis whether it was from Maoist activists, young radical academics or old cultural friends of China. No Swiss city had a Chinatown or a district with a form of residential concentration, as one can find in Paris or London. Until the 1970s, the Chinese in Switzerland were few and highly qualified, often diplomats, international civil servants or people from wealthy families.
While active and having membership of the wider association, overall their political importance was peripheral – perhaps offering an introduction to the radical left party, and with the debate over three world theory, an audience and outlet for analysis and a substitute for a more overtly political commitment, they were never simply controlled or run by the Maoist organisations.
The Swiss friendship association took on a different character, suffering a severe reduction in membership after the death of Mao due to political disillusionment. Cordoba and Liu (2018) looking at the cooperation and contradictions between local Maoist parties, friendship associations and Chinese authorities conclude that they finally began to depoliticise – although supporting the post-Mao regime – and professionalise themselves from the 1980s , establishing a travel agency in 1983 and engaging in twinning agreements between Swiss and Chinese cities. The association failed to survive the negative influence of the 1989 Tiananmen Square repressions, and officially dissolved in 1992.
[i] Lovell, Julia (2019) Maoism: A Global History. London:Bodley Head
[ii] Ariane Knüsel (2020) ‘White on the outside but red on the inside’: Switzerland and Chinese intelligence networks during the Cold War, Cold War History, 20:1, 77-94, DOI:10.1080/14682745.2019.1575368
[iii]David Eugster (2019) How the Swiss viewed Communism in the Cold War years swissinfo.ch October 2, 2019
[iv] In fact, the extent to which the secret services and police tried to document and monitor supposed political infiltration only became clear at the end of the Cold War. The so-called Secret Files Scandal of 1989 revealed that notes had been made on the politically suspicious behaviour of almost 700,000 people. The focus was not just on communists but on anyone who criticised mainstream society: those with any sort of left-wing tendencies, Greens, alternative thinkers, Third World activists, or feminists. Eugster (2019) How the Swiss viewed Communism in the Cold War years
[v] The Pro-Chinese Communists in Switzerland. Neue Zuercher Zeitung , Foreign Edition #306 (Zurich) November 7th 1963 p13
[vi] The English edition of Peking Review/ now Beijing Review was launched on March 4, 1958. Bi-weekly editions in French and Spanish began fortnighly in March 1963, then Pekin Informa became a weekly from January 1964. (The Spanish edition was discontinued around 2004.) A weekly German edition (called Peking Rundschau) began on Sept. 22, 1964. English language archive at http://www.massline.org/PekingReview/
[vii] The Swiss organisation was not amongst the Marxist-Leninist groups recorded as having sent greetings to the fifth congress of the Party of Labor of Albania held in Tirana early November 1966, and published in a 212 paged booklet from the <Naim Frasheri> Publishing House.
[ix] “From Stalin to Mao, Albania and the Socialist World”. Cornel University Press 2017 p218. Activity explored when the Albanian archives opened up to western academics such as the aforementioned Elidor Mehilli and see Nicolas Miletitch, ‘Revelations des archives de Tirana’, Cashiers d’histoire sociale #6 (Spring /summer 1996) pp 83-96
[xi] Ariane Knüsel (2020) ‘White on the outside but red on the inside’: Switzerland and Chinese intelligence networks during the Cold War, Cold War History, 20:1, 77-94
Intrigues amongst the Comrades
The fractious origins of the anti-revisionist movement in Europe was reflected in some of the relationship between comrades ostensibly on the same side of the ideological barricades which led, regardless of the subjective calls for unity, to complications in attempts to consolidate the anti-revisionists into an effective expression of international co-operation .
There were multitudes of conflicting relations between ML groups, domestic rivals (as in Switzerland) and internationally as illustrated in July 1975 when Austrian MLs related to the MLPO Marxist-Leninist Party of Austria, raise public criticism of the KPD / ML regarding the distribution in West Germany of “Selected Programs of Radio Tirana” a booklet published by the MLSK-Vienna” .It was available in West Berlin at “practically at all ‘left’ book stores, except the ‘Roter Morgen bookstore’ because the KPD / ML leadership “openly boycott the publication despite a shared allegiance to Albania but part of a wider dispute between the groups.
A decade earlier, in March 1965 L’Etincelle of the Swiss Communist Party stoked up an internecine discord amongst anti-revisionist groups aboard when its supplement announced,
“the Revolutionary and Marxist-Leninist Spanish Communist party (PCERML) had been officially created “by demand of several hundreds of Spanish workers throughout Switzerland, Belgium, France and England… and with the accord of Communists in Spain.”
At the time of the formation of the Communist Party of Spain (Marxist-Leninist) in the autumn of 1964, the PSC had called “our Spanish comrades” not to adhere to these new groups which pretend to represent them. (L’Etincelle September 1964). The communique issued on behalf of the PCERML stated that the fault lay with Andersson and the Lenin Centre. L’Etincelle (September 1964) warned against “the sweet words and promises of the Centre Lenine.”
“We announced that in October 1964 the soi-disant Communist Party of Spain (Marxist-Leninist) was created in Geneva…Unfortunately, yet another time some adventurers with a large number of Asiatic credits wanted to deceive and throw powder in the eyes of those who closely follow the situation in Spain, and attempted in this way to harvest funds, of which the receivers would never be Spanish.”
Allegations continued claiming the first pro-Chinese Spanish communist party had been a dismal failure,
“Fortunately, thanks to the vigilance of true Spanish Marxists, the false politicians have been unmasked and will be judged as is necessary by the world’s revolutionaries. A page is turned on this sad event, and the Grippa group, falling apart and in flight, will not disappear from the scene more pitifully than it would have lived with foreign funds.”
L’Etincelle also suggested that a second Marxist-Leninist grouping had arisen in Belgium to challenge the Jacques Grippa-led Communist party.
“A delegation of the Swiss Communist Party, led by our comrade Gerald Bulliard, secretary general of the party, recently visited Brussels” The March edition of L’Etincelle reported, “In our next issue, we will publish the joint declaration drawn up between the leaders of the MOVEMENT OF PROGRESSIVE WORKERS OF BELIGUM (Marxist-Leninists) and our leaders. This meeting was fruitful and contributed to the reinforcing of the fraternal understanding between Belgium and Swiss Marxist-Leninists”
The Swiss Communist Party led by Gerard Bulliard reporting on the creation of an International Revolutionary Front that both the Soviet and Chinese Communist Parties were more concerned with “its own national prestige” than defending the world revolution. Expressing sympathy for both Fidel Castro and Enver Hoxha the PSC sought to “join forces with the comrades of several countries and professing different ideologies but sharing identical goals” in the CFIR – Committee for an International Revolutionary Front – founded in Paris in November 1965. [L’Etincelle No,16 January 1966]
There was a swipe at parties who labelled others “as American agents, an expression quite popular these days and the obsession of the gangster Grippa, in Brussels.”
A known incident of infiltration of the anti-revisionist movement concerns Richard Gibson, the Black American journalist, formerly secretary of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in the United States. Besides being responsible for the English-language edition of Revolution associated with Jacques Vergès, Gibson was active as an informer and spy for the CIA.[i]
Such activity to establish an ideal vehicle of infiltration was repeated after Bulliard’s explusion from the SCP and under the name of the PPS Parti Populaire Suisse, Italian investigators named Bulliard as an informer for the Servizio Informazioni Difesa (SID) Italian Secret Service when investigating right-wing terrorism around the Galido phenomenon in 1996.[ii]
“GERARD BULLIARD, former secretary of the pro-Chinese Swiss Communist Party, in contact with the SID from March 1967 to July of that same year, he proposed itself to provide the Service with news on the activities of the pro- Chinese parties in Switzerland and in other European countries, with particular reference to ITALY…. had attended the planning meeting for the foundation on 22-10-1967 in TURIN of the Clandestine Marxist Leninist Revolutionary Front.” [iii]
Busky notes that hopes of forming a “Revolutionary International” had resulted in the establishment of the less ambitious Committee for an International Revolutionary Front, with Bulliard as its secretary.[iv]
The ambition of Bulliard to solidify a network of international groups on the basis of factional activity and without the political support of agreement from China was farcical –Bulliard had complained that “the comrades in Peking would think twice before following certain recommendations by their delegates in luxurious European embassies” – the PSC could not expect recognition or publicity to endorse their actions.
Grippa also complained of China’s lack of distinction between authentic and imposter Marxist-Leninist groups, others were also suspicious of their international colleagues. The British-based activist, William Ash (writing in his 1978 published memoirs) raised the thought that one-time leading European Maoist and veteran communist, Jacques Grippa
“ was quite possibly a Russian agent pretending to be Peking-orientated in order both to mislead…and to render an account to the Kremlin of who the main dissidents were.” [v]
The Belgian party led by Grippa was active in interventions in the arguments of other parties, raising criticism of surrounding revisionist parties in the pages of La Voix du Peuple of the Dutch (March 27 1964) and French (April 10 1964). Attention was also given to the emerging ML groups and judgement was unsparing on the Swiss activities, Grippa complaint to the Albanian authorities of the lack of scrutiny for ideological trustworthiness and proper ML credentials. The Lenin Centre, whose credentials were impressive, countered the slanders from Bulliard published in L’Etincelle (The Spark), dismissing them as:
“..low provocateurs without any liaison either with the Marxist-Leninist International movement or the militant Swiss workers.” [vi]
Building an international network saw pole of attraction move from Brussels, from Switzerland to Paris with the editorial board of the slickly produced pro-Chinese journal, Revolution but eventually falter on the disengagement in such a project from China, Grippa noted ‘in dealing with us, China’s representatives in Europe were not ideological comrades, but bureaucrats, who feared the consequences of contacting with us’. [vii]
Accusations and mistrust in pro-China anti-revisionism in Britain was also evident with the Marxist-Leninist Organisation of Britain (who eventually came out in support of Liu Shao-chi rather than Mao) explaining events through a conspiracy prism as a result of intrigues against them and in favour of all the elements supposedly seeking to disrupt the developing Marxist-Leninist Organisation. As far as this minor English group were concerned, they saw themselves as the victims of “the Foreign Ministry and diplomatic service of the People’s Republic of China [that] were already dominated by counter-revolutionary agents of the Chinese capitalist class long before the “cultural revolution” began.” [viii]
Visitors would come for badges and copies of Mao’s Quotations – the Little Red Book- and talks with Chinese officials. Gaining “recognition” was a time-consuming vanity project for some activists seduced by the euphoria of revolutionary opposition. Good relationships with the office of the Charge d’Affaires and the Hsinhua News provided access to material, prestige and a reflective political vindication. There was another side to the relationship as Muriel Seltman’s memoirs observed:
Like others in the so-called Anti-Revisionist Movement, we regularly visited the Chinese Legation for talks on the progress of the ‘struggle’ in England. There was an element of competitiveness in this, each small group vying for the honour of ‘recognition.’ Again, we did not realise that the personnel at the legation were using us for their own advancement and their political fortunes and jobs depended upon the degree to which they could convince their superiors they were recruiting support in England for the Chinese Party. They were probably assessing the likeliest “winners” in the stakes for a new Communist Party. Everybody behaved correctly, of course, but at this time we had no idea that claiming support from abroad was part of the power struggle in China.” [ix]
There was no mention made in the ‘publication of recognition’, the daily bulletins of the Hsinhua News Agency, of the Conference of Marxist-Leninist Unity held in September 1967, nor of the Marxist-Leninist Organisation of Britain set up by that Conference! Except on one occasion, no invitations to receptions and film-shows at the Office of the Chinese Charge d’Affaires were extended to leading members of the group, and people who had long been on the official invitation list of the Chinese Charge d’Affaires office were dropped from it as soon as their membership in the M.L.O.B. became known.
“It is clearly no accident” claimed the MLOB that an expelled member was closely associated with “the representatives of the People’s Republic of China in London”. Furthermore, “Certain diplomatic representatives of the People’s Republic of China in London went so far as to disseminate verbally slanderous attacks against certain of the leading members of the A.C.M.L.U. and later of the M.L.O.B…. In general, the office of the Charge d’Affaires and the Hsinhua News Agency gave support and publicity respectively to “broad organisations” of friendship with China, such as the “Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding, Ltd.” and the “Friends of China”…. an organisation of friendship with China as one to foster support for the faction headed by Mao Tse-tung; it functions, therefore, as a propaganda arm of the Chinese capitalist class in Britain, and also, through its “leftist”, “revolutionary” pronouncements, as a net to catch anti-revisionists and divert them from the developing Marxist-Leninist Organisation of Britain.” [x]
These feuds and clashes attributed to the rough-and-tumble of politics were, setting aside the conspiracy prism, understandable phenomena but in Switzerland (and as disclosed years later, in the case of the Marxistisch-Leninistische Partij Nederland or MLPN) there were more sinister aspects to the intrigue.
[iii] SPECIAL CARABINIERI OPERATIONAL GROUPING Criminal proceedings against Rognoni Giancarlo and others. Rome, July 23, 1996
[iv] Busky (2002) Communism in History and Theory: the European experience. Westport: Praeger Publishers. A report by Italian Special Carabinieri Operational Grouping notes the planning meeting for “the foundation of the Clandestine Marxist Leninist Revolutionary Front” on October 22nd1967 in Turin. At the meeting was also present the Swiss Maoist, and source for SID Italian intelligence service, Gerard Bulliard.
[v].Ash, W (1978) A Red Square. London: Howard Baker.
[vi] State spying on dissident groups have a long recorded history, see note xx[vi]
[vii] Marku, Yibel (2017) Sino-Albanian relations during the Cold War, 1949-1978: An Albanian perspective (Doctor’s thesis, Lingnan University, Hong Kong). Retrieved from http://commons.ln.edu.hk/his_etd/11/
‘Red China’s Far Right Friends’ makes for an eye-catching headline, peppered with references to interference from its secretive embassies sponsoring far left activities and you have a classic conspiracy scenario.
The attempt to infiltrate the movement in those moments of factional fighting within it during the earlier stages of its history were real, and in perspective, temporarily successful in the case of the use of the PSC. The argument becomes unstainable, over-extended when construct an interlocking network of relationships to taint a single movement with extensive speculation. There is a picture painted of Far Right infiltration, citing their own publications and using a few examples of actual attempts, as if the exception was the rule.
Flirting with the Left is treated at face value rather than taken as the attempted intoxication and manipulation it tactically represents for the far right activists. A flirtation assumed to be reciprocal, and accepts as factual the Far Right testimony offered, without challenging their printed analysis as an actual reflection of what was happening. As if the ideas expressed by these neo-fascist provocateurs and infiltrators were not questioned, challenged and rejected by the Maoist left at the time. The mainstream interpretations of the relations between Maoists and the Western far right was one of hostile opposition, anti-fascism being one of the active platforms that Maoist militants throughout Europe were engaged evident in any reading of the publications of the time.
An objective presentation of the existing documents and materials, based on the testimonies of the participants and secondary sources is seldom achieved when exploring such topics. A review of the literature has the few examples overstated and repeatedly drawn upon the same source material with a journalistic approach that conditions the narrative.
There is a narrative of a supposed marriage of convenience that side-lines important considerations, and builds upon exceptional incidents to draw a broad conclusion resting on the filmiest of accounts, decontextualized selectivity of the evidence, and subjective desires, their own version of the truth which is not compatible with the others. Compelling evidence is absent, and given the furtive nature of subject unlikely to found.
The use of PSC & the enigma of Bulliard
Gérard Bulliard, expelled from the PvD, as secretary general was the public face of the Swiss Communist Party – PCS created in September 1963.
He had a militant background in Vevey of the Workers Party and Popular Vaudois, section of the Swiss Labor Party, PvD. He had visited Albania in the summer of 1963 before breaking away to establish the PCS. Bulliard had a chequer career in the anti-revisionist movement. Within three months of its founding former members were establishing an alternative, and more successful grouping in the Lenin centre publishing Octobre, and a few months after that Bulliard adopts anti-Chinese positions (whilst remaining anti- CPSU) because of Chinese support for that alternative grouping around the journal Octobre. Described as “Megalomaniac and mythomaniac”, Gérard Bulliard never succeeded in developing his small group, from which he was himself expelled by an “Extraordinary Congress” on May 29, 1967.
The temperamental Bulliard most constant factor, according to the CIA-funded Radio Free Europe, was “a visceral anti-Semitism” speculating which may have eased infiltration by fascists agents. [i]
The subsequent behaviour and politics of Bulliard would suggest a rapid move to the right after his expulsion from the PCS. He therefore continued his activities, from September 9, 1967, in a group called Parti Populaire Suisse – PPS, led by Marc Chantre, and, under the influence of a former French SS, Robert Leroy, will make the PPS an anti-Semitic organization serving as a cover to far-right that would last until media exposure at the end of August 1969.
The PPS publication retained the name of that founded by Gérard Bulliard who had published 29 issues of l’Etincelle, and of which this new number was presented as the continuator. An editorial by Bulliard, which specifies that his new party remains pro-Chinese but that “the most concrete example for us as regards the creation of our socialist society is the German Democratic Republic” where Bulliard has just made, in August, a study trip. This stance should raise questions about his anti-revisionist credentials. The paper also publishes several articles, in particular on” the Angolan revolution “, by Jean-Marie Laurent, presented as an” excellent comrade “and who was in fact a former member of the OAS, working with Robert Leroy in Africa then in Italy.
What was disclosed by research following the 1974 Carnation Revolution was that a Lisbon-based “news agency” Aginter Presse had initiated a series of operations aimed at weakening and destroying guerrilla groups fighting for national liberation in Portuguese Africa. These activities were undertaken at the behest and with the direct assistance of the PIDE/DGS which began in 1966. It was argued that “the infiltration of pro-Chinese [Maoist] organizations and the use of this [leftist] cover was one of the great specialties of Aginter”.[ii]
Aginter Presse correspondents reported
“Pro-Chinese circles, characterised by their own impatience and zeal, are right for infiltration. Our activity must be to destroy the structure of the democratic State under the cover of communist and pro-Chinese activities; we have already infiltrated some of our people into these groups.”[iii]
Aginter found the vehicle to use, an ostensibly Maoist organization headed by Gerard Bulliard. The Aginter man responsible for arranging this was Robert Leroy. It is alleged that with support from the Chinese embassy in Berne, which was believed to be the Chinese overseas intelligence agency’s main headquarters in Europe, Bulliard was persuaded to hire Robert Leroy and other Aginter personnel as correspondents for L ’Etincelle.
Armed with these credentials, Leroy and Jean-Marie Laurent were able to penetrate “liberated territory”in Angola, Guinea-Bissau, and Mozambique in order to “interview” several African guerrilla leaders. After doing so, they engaged in intoxication operations to provoke dissension within the resistance movements, and Robert Leroy later exercised his talents in Italy.
An article in the Italian weekly news magazine ‘L’Europeo’ (November 1974) on the activities of Aginter Press noted that in Africa it planted people inside the national liberation movements. There is a lengthy document, in the records accessed at Caxias prison, setting out the attempt to spring from a Kinshasa jail one Aginter-Press agent arrested “for Maoist propaganda”. [iv]
Laurent, suggests that in addition to their African ventures, Aginter “correspondents” also infiltrated the Portuguese opposition in Western Europe by posing as Maoist journalists. [v]
The work [vi] of Jeffrey Bale challenges what is a complex narrative which, in one line, is that Bulliard’s party was a genuine Maoist organization which was manipulated by Leroy into providing Aginter operatives with legitimate left-wing credentials. This is what Bulliard himself claimed after the activities of Aginter were exposed in revelations after the Carnation Revolution of 1974.[vii]
However American academic Dr Bale disagrees and suggested that Bulliard was himself a neo-fascist provocateur who had consciously established a phony Maoist party which could be used as a cover by the far right.[viii]
That would raise questions about Bulliard’s previous involvement and commitment in the PvdA: was the PSC an existing agent moving into a potentially more radical stream rather than a duped, and increasingly reactionary personality alien to the maoist movement? Is Bale wrong in his assessment?
Bales draws upon a Swiss source to add to the charge with evidence that Bulliard was working as a paid informant for Marc-Edmond Chantre’s virulently anti-Communist Aktion freier Staatsburger organization in 1964, the very same year he formed the PCS.[ix] Chantre, a former member of the Action Nationale, and his post-war group, (like the Economic League in Britain) compiled a large archive of files on suspected leftists in Switzerland prior to its dissolution. [x]
Furthermore, Bulliard was said to be in contact with Manuel Coelho da Silva (alias “Manuel Rios”), a PIDE/DGS informant within the major anti-Salazarist opposition group, the Comite Portugal Libre in Paris. Adding to the prosecution’s case was that Italian investigators named Bulliard as an informer for the Servizio Informazioni Difesa (SID) Italian Secret Service when investigating right-wing terrorism around the Galido phenomenon in 1996.[xi]
In other words, Bulliard was undoubtedly for Bale a “player” rather than a dupe. At the time the question of whether Bulliard was a deceived naive or an agent of the extreme right from 1963 was not settled. Is this web of connections strong enough to support a judgement either way? The argument that there is evidence that as leader of the PCS, Gérard Bulliard, was in fact a neofascist provocateur, and his party a phony organization brings forth a Scottish judgement of unproven. It may well be that Bulliard was reflecting in his eclectic political practice a cultural legacy of the predominate imperialist social democratic ideology of Swiss society.
[i] Kevin Devlin, ‘New Left’ opposition to Swiss CP. Radio Free Europe Release 0317 October 7, 1969
[ii] Laurent, Frederick (1978) L ‘ Orchestre Noir Paris: Stock. p148. (Unseen)
[iii] Quoted in many accounts including Stuart Christie (1984) Stefano Dell Chiale: portrait of a black terrorist. Refract publication
[v] Laurent, Frederick (1978) L ‘ Orchestre Noir Paris: Stock, pp. 148-9, 151
[vi] Bale, J.M. (1994) The “Black” Terrorist International: Neo-Fascist Paramilitary Networks and the “Strategy of Tension” in Italy, 1968-1974. Doctorate Thesis University of California at Berkeley
[vii] See his letter to the post-coup Portuguese authorities in Laurent, Orchestre noir, pp. 148-51; Bale recommends that for the Bulliard affair, see the 11 April 1975 letter from the SDCI investigators at Caxias to the Portuguese consulate in Paris, plus appended documents in Laurent pp. 148-51.
[viii] See Jeffrey M. Bale, “Right-Wing Terrorists and the Extraparliamentary Left in Post-World War II Europe: Collusion or Manipulation?”. Lobster #18 October 1982:2-18 note 108.
[ix] Citing Claude Cantini, Les ultras: Extreme droite et droite extreme en Suisse. Les mouvements et la presse de 1921 a 1991 (Lausanne: En Bas, 1992), p. 161, note 136. (unseen)
[xi] Daniele Ganser (2004) NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe. London: Routledge
The tangled web of accusation and conspiracy around the exposed intrigue of fascist infiltration and manipulation to achieve their goals in Switzerland that centres on the activities of Aginter Press are based on facts. Aginter Press did attempt to successfully infiltrate via the Parti Communiste Suisse, which was subject to monitoring by Swiss domestic state services. Was the CIA and KGB twiddling their thumbs? Willy Wottreng, a former leading member of the KPS/ML, informed Ariane Knüsel (2020) that when China opened an embassy in Rome, the Swiss Marxist-Leninist Party (KPS/ML) suspected that the Chinese missions in Switzerland were under surveillance and usually travelled to Rome instead of Bern or Geneva whenever they wanted to meet Chinese diplomats.)
Aginter Press (aka “Central Order and Tradition”) was a pseudo press agency set up in Lisbon, Portugal in September 1966, under Salazar’s dictatorship (so-called Estado Novo). Directed by Captain Yves Guérin-Sérac, a Catholic anti-communist activist who had taken part in the foundation of the OAS in Madrid, a far-right terrorist group which struggled for “French Algeria” during the Algerian War (1954-1962), Aginter Press was in reality an anti-communist mercenary organisation. The news agency, simply a cover to allow Aginter’s operatives to travel freely. Besides its journalistic cover, it trained its members in covert action techniques amounting to terrorism, including bombings, silent assassinations, subversion techniques, clandestine communication and infiltration and counter-insurgency.
An internal document summed up Aginter’s key beliefs:
The first phase of political activity ought to be to create the conditions favoring the installation of chaos. [ . . . ] In our view, the first move we should make is to destroy the structure of the democratic state under the cover of communist and pro-Chinese activities. [ . . . ] Moreover, we have people who have infiltrated these groups and obviously we will have to tailor our actions to the ethos of the milieu—propaganda and action of a sort which will seem to have emanated from our communist adversaries.
After 1969, Aginter shifted its focus from Africa to Europe. In this second phase, which lasted from 1969 until Aginter’s formal dissolution in 1974, agency personnel offered their specialized guerre revolutionaries training to a number of authoritarian regimes in Latin America, and were in fact hired to provide it in Guatemala and post-Allende Chile.
For Aginter Press, RobertLeroy was responsible for this “collaboration” who specialized in obtaining information on the left acting on the cover of journalism. Robert Leroy, imprisoned in France for collaboration from 1945 to 1955, worked for an alleged press agency, Aginter Press, created to promote the infiltration of pro-Chinese organizations in order to use them as cover to approach and liquidate guerrilla leaders in the Portuguese colonies in Africa, installing provocateurs there, creating false resistance groups and infiltrating the Portuguese opposition in exile.
From 1968 to 1970, according to his own admission, Leroy collaborated with Guillou at Aginter until his left-wing cover was “burned” by various journalists and he lost his ability to continue conducting “infiltration and intoxication” operations although disputed sources raise implications in assassination – no proof in the normal corridor of mirrors that speculation leads you down.
The narrative moves to Italy
The exposure of the contamination in Switzerland is followed up by looking at the activity of Aginter Press elsewhere, specifically its activists in Italy. Here again what came to light followed investigation and exposure of a vast conspiracy by the right wing, in concert with state actors, to use the Left.
The conspiracy narrative ties in the action of Aginter Press and others with the wider existence of the anti-communist Gladio project[i] the Western European network of equipped and trained resistance “Stay Behind” groups to fight a Soviet invasion disclosed in November 1990. Supposedly to thwart future Soviet invasions or influence in Italy and Western Europe, in fact, implicated in a strategy of tension, a campaign of false flag bombings and attempted coup d’état organised by the Italian neo-fascists with support from Masonic Lodge Propaganda Due (P2) and Gladio, NATO’s stay-behind anti-communist networks during the Cold War. The objective of this ‘strategy of tension” was to ensure that leftists and Communists could not come to power in Italy by creating a psychosis of fear of the left among ordinary Italians and a desire for strong, authoritarian government.
The “Strategy of Tension” itself was outlined in a document which came to light in October 1974. Dated November 1969 it was one of a number of dispatches sent to Lisbon by Aginter’s Italian correspondents. The document is entitled “Our Political Activity” which it explains thus:[ii]
“Our belief is that the first phase of political activity ought to be to create the conditions favouring the installation of chaos in all of the regime’s structures. This should necessarily begin with the undermining of the state economy so as to arrive at confusion throughout the whole legal apparatus. This leads on to a situation of strong political tension, fear in the world of industry and hostility towards the government and the political parties… In our view the first move we should make is to destroy the structure of the democratic state, under the cover of communist and pro-Chinese activities. Moreover, we have people who have infiltrated these groups and obviously we will have to tailor our actions to the ethos of the milieu – propaganda and action of a sort which will seem to have emanated from our communist adversaries and pressure brought to bear on people in whom power is invested at every level. That will create a feeling of hostility towards those who threaten the peace of each and every nation, and at the same time we must raise up a defender of the citizenry [sic] against the disintegration brought about by terrorism and subversion… “
The report goes on to describe the political situation in Italy and the emergence of the extra-parliamentary left: “Outside the present contingencies these people are possessed of a new enthusiasm and huge impatience. This fact should be carefully considered. The introduction of provocateur elements into the circles of the revolutionary left is merely a reflection of the wish to push this unstable situation to breaking point and create a climate of chaos…” The unknown author concludes: “Pro-Chinese circles, characterised by their own impatience and zeal, are right for infiltration… Our activity must be to destroy the structure of the democratic State under the cover of communist and pro- Chinese activities; we have already infiltrated some of our people into these groups…”
According to the Italian Senate report on Gladio and on the strategy of tension, headed by Senator Giovanni Pellegrino, the CIA has supported Aginter Press in Portugal. The Commission stated that:
“Aginter Press was in reality, according to the last obtained documents acquired by the criminal investigation, an information centre directly linked to the CIA and the Portuguese secret service that specialized in provocative operations.”
In the televised testimony of unrepentant neo-fascist bomber Vincent Vinciguerra, he described the international co-ordination by European and American intelligences agencies – referred to as the Berne Club – which had been active during the Cold war period in the internal Italian political battles because of the initial fear of possible PCI involvement in national government.[iii]
Italian magistrate Guido Salvini, in charge of the investigations concerning the 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing, explained to the Italian senators that:
“In these investigations data has emerged which confirmed the links between Aginter Press, Ordine Nuovo and Avanguardia Nazionale… It has emerged that Guido Giannettini [one of the neo-fascist responsible of the bombing] had contacts with Guérin-Sérac in Portugal ever since 1964. It has emerged that instructors of Aginter Press. .. came to Rome between 1967 and 1968 and instructed the militant members of Avanguardia Nazionale in the use of explosives.”
[i]Ganser, Daniele (2004) NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe. London:Routledge
[iii] Quoted in BBC2 TV three-part Time Watch documentary on Gladio – available on YouTube – broadcast June 1992.
False Flag Operations
This has been built upon and widen to encompass the involvement of far-right terrorist actions in Italy, and Aginter Press played an important role in implementing its “tension strategy” in Italy, and some researchers of the deep state have constructed what they characterise as a “Nazi-Maoist” operation. This ideological incoherent position is built upon reasoning that it would be in the interest of the CIA to deepen the communist fracture of the Sino-Soviet split therefore its agents strengthen and develop the “Maoist Left”, a senario where, specifically, CIA agents were responsible for encouraging the spread of that ideology (Maoism).
There are example of a phoney left being used to disrupt and disintegrate groups by Dutch and American security forces [i] that saw disruption of a small number of activists, far from the scope of the Western “tension” strategists, and there is nothing novel to suggest that the state infiltrated agents to spy on radical and progressive campaigns but seriously to develop a left, especially Maoist, in opposition to pro-Soviet communism.
It is easy to stray from a focus on the limited extent the Far Right did actually infiltrate Left wing, specifically maoist groups in the 1960s and 1970s into the intoxicating intrigues and manoeuvres that occurred during the covert Cold war period. The extent of material available on the internet is phenomenal as the dimpliest search would demonstrate . Most conspiracy theories (apart from David Ickes and his Alien Reptilian Legacy) tend to be a mixture of facts and imagination. Historical facts provide some scaffolding for other speculations, sometimes plausible with amusing leaps of speculation raising a large number of interesting possibilities, and chiselled details which supports the unfolding narrative included. The narrative such work creates offers the untold account through assertion, assumption and alternatives of evidently undiscovered connections underpinned by deductive reconstruction.
Like a series of interlocking wheels constructing an intricate mechanism that when critically engaged there are sharply differing assessments by readers. Believability in the story-teller can create the spell of confidence and conviction that purports to provide a sensational account of history, however carefully crafted, but goes against every known piece of public information and revelations from the archives, but still finds ideological partisan support for the conspiracy paradigm.
False flag operations now familiar tools of counter-insurgency strategy, undertaken by the state and its NGO allies, succeeded to discredit, disrupt and destroy progressive and radicals’ movements. Even the accusations raised can have a disproportionate effect as with the characterisation of nazi-maoist stream, in Italy the neo-fascist terrorism associated with Franco Freda. One of the representatives of the sematic oxymoron nazi-maoism was Enzo Maria Dantini, one of the many neo-fascists who were “recruited” in the Gladio network, whose motivation was neither based on materialist doctrines nor to serve the people.
Not so much as infiltration as contamination was the strategy behind the so-called “nazi-maoist” Franco Freda and Giovanni Ventura, responsible for the bomb attacks at the Milan Trade fair and railway station in April 1969 and Plaza Fontana, Milan on December 12 1969, with blame deflected onto anarchist circles by the far right. Over 150 Italian anarchists were brought in for questioning by Inspector Luigi Calabresi, acting head of the Milan political police squad. One of these anarchists, Giuseppe Pinelli, was thrown from Calabresi’s fourth floor office window to his death in the yard below, or perhaps he was dead prior to the fall.
The fascist movement Avanguardia Nazionale, the organization of the terrorists Stefano delle Chiaie and Mario Merlino, was used for this. Avanguardia neo-fascists “disguised” themselves as “Maoists” promoting the use of Maoist propaganda with posters throughout Italy. They were never accepted as part of the vibrant Maoist movement in Italy or able to infiltrate and direct the politics of the Maoists regardless of the language they tried to use. There was never a dialogue with the left.
The campaign occurred in 1972 the far right AN “were given the task of putting up maoist posters. This was, in effect, an attempt to create an ‘ultra-left’ even more extreme that the [PCI] communist party” drawing militant support away from them. [ii]
This strategy was seen in operation in Italy where in 1968 a young Italian fascist, Mario Merlino , member of the Avanguardia Nationale (AN) made attempts to approach Maoist groups boasting of having contacts with the Swiss journal, L’Etincelle. After rebutted after approaching Avanguardia Proletaria, Merlino tried Linea Rossa where he was unknown but exposed when his name appeared in the press in connection with a fascist attack on the PCI headquarters in Rome. He re-emerged in May 1969 when Merlino approached a militant of the Unione del Communisti Italiani (which he tried to join) to hold some material for him. It was fuse wire and detonators. This was shortly after the Palace of Justice had been bombed. A police raid on the militants’ home two days later found nothing, he had previously disposed of the material and Merlino was finished trying to use Italian Maoists.
When the Italy-China Friendship Society was established in Ferrara in 1972 as a vehicle to infiltrate the ML environment, the official Italy-China Society denounced its activities as provocateurs. The exposure and rejection of such approaches from known Far Right activists was the common response from the pro-China groups. Other identified right-wing infiltrators include Domenico Poili (of Ordine Nuovo) and Alfredo Sestili (of AN) who joined the PCI/ML and created confusion before being identified as provocateur. Claudio Mutti, an Italian protégé of Thiriat and associate of the terrorist Stefano delle Chiaie, adopted the name Lotta di Popolo for his involvement with the Italian-Libyan Friendship Society and a pro-Chinese student group.
Relationships of Thieuart
While some on the right advocated working in left groups, the idea that an ideological alliance between such groups never had any traction in the Marxist-Leninist movement. Research into far right conspiracies has unveiled real actual attempts to manipulated and divert groups in Italy but when the likes of Freda, and the Belgian Jean-Francois Thiriart loom large in the narrative of right wing infiltration, they are not surprisingly on the margins of post 1945 mainstream European fascism, and of zero influence on the Left. Immersion in the intricacies of that covert political world and a critique of its methodology and with a critical appreciation of its findings narrows the perspective. The right’s flirting in a one-sided courtship of the Left is taken at face value rather than treated as the attempted intoxication and manipulation it tactically represents for the far right activists.
Among those recycled as evidence is the activity of Jeune Europe a far-right organization on the margin of the fringe Right, it was never engaged with left-wing parties of any political allegiance. It was a failed enterprise. The claim it “sought a rapprochement with Maoist China in order to oust the Americans from Europe” says nothing about Chinese intentions and actions with regard to the group.[iii] Thiriart attempted in vain to obtain Chinese support for Jeune Europe reflects more upon his geo-political ideas, expressed in Empire de 400 million, than a cultivation by the Chinese. Paeans to communist China appeared with increasing frequency in the pages of JE’s publications. See, for example, die 15 October 1964 issue of Jeune Europe: Organisation Europeenne pour la Formation d’un Cadre Politique—the internal bulletin of JE which was sent exclusively to the organization’s militants—which attacked the idea of an “Atlantic Europe” and argued that Europe had to support Chinese imperialism against Russian and American imperialism. In the 27 October 1964 issue of the same bulletin, he went so far as to praise the development of an atomic bomb by China, presumably as a counterweight to the nuclear monopoly of the United States and the Soviet Union.
Pan Europeanism on the far right had been promoted post-war by marginal failures, the likes of the wash-up British fascist, Oswald Mosley and by Jean Thiriart in Belgium. In October 1965, Thiriart dissolved JE and incorporated the rest of his loyal followers into a new organization, the Parti Communautaire Europeen (PCE). Its’ cocktail of conflicting ideological positions and appearance reflected an eclectic and self-declared “national communism” on the artificial construct of racist-based European identity.
Thiriart had planned strategy on a globe: his 1964 blueprint, Europe – An Empire of 400 Million Men’ saw China as a tactical ally as a means of unsettling the Soviet Union. He Argues that neo-Nazis had a “China Option”, the fantasy sketched out by Thiriat is of Chinese financial assistance so that he could organise anti-American attacks in Europe, with China providing finance and sanctuary for his “guerrilla bands”. However after setting up this straw man argument, adopted the slogan “Neither Moscow nor Washington” calling for a united European homeland: “The Fourth Reich will be Europe, the Reich of the people from Brest to Bucharest”.
Thiriart had said to develop a relationship with Ceausescu’s Romania, being an admirer of its “national communism”.
His attempted cooperation was at a ‘strategic level’ rather than an approach to the domestic anti-Soviet left. Such musings would have been lost and forgotten if were not for a story repeated by commentators on the extreme right.
MEETING CHOU EN-LAI IN BURCHAREST?
“In its initial phase,” Thiriart recounted, “my conversation with Chou En Lai was but an exchange of anecdotes and memories. At this stage all went well. Chou En-Lai was interested in my studies in Chinese writing and I in his stay in France, which represented for him an enjoyable time of his youth. The conversation then moved to popular armies — a subject that interested both of us. Things started to go downhill when we got to concrete issues. I had to sit through a true Marxist-Leninist catechism class. Chou followed with an inventory of the serious psychological errors committed by the Soviet Union.”
Thiriart tried to persuade Chou En-lai that Europe could be an important partner in a united struggle waged by all the world’s anti-American forces, but he made little headway. He then asked the Chinese foreign minister for financial assistance so that he could establish a revolutionary army to carry out anti-American attacks in Europe. An elite military apparatus of this sort also needed a base outside Europe, and Thiriart hoped that China would provide sanctuary for his guerrilla brigades. A sceptical Chou referred Thiriart to contacts in the Chinese secret service, but these never bore fruit.[iv]
The Russian author Anton Shekhovtsov, in Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir, retells the tale of Thiriart that “despite the rupture with the Chinese” – but his previous sentence says “the collaboration with the Chinese apparently never materialised”, so what was the rupture , a non-existent relationship ? But ignore this contradiction because – the author asserts , “the PCE and European branches of Jeune Europe collaborated with the Maoists at the end of the 1960s.” [v]
“Thiriart acted as a liaison between the Chinese Embassy, the Parti communiste Suisse/marxiste-leniniste (Swiss Communist Party/ Marxist-Leninist (PSC/ML)) and the Portugal-based Aginter Press.”
However Bulliard’s organisation was the PSC, its newspaper L’Etincelle; he continued publishing it, from September 9, 1967, under the imprint of Parti Populaire Suisse – PPS. It was not until 1972 that the organisation associated with Nils Andersson, the Organization of Communists of Switzerland, adopted the title Parti Communiste Suisse/Marxistes-Léninistes. (Something is a wry)
Returning to the subject of alleged Chinese assignation with the outer fringes of European neo-fascism, Bale asserts that,
“In 1966, after making contact with the Beijing government through the intermediary of the Rumanian Departmentul de Informatii Externe (DIE: External Intelligence Department), Thiriart traveled to Bucharest to meet with Zhou Enlai. Shortly thereafter, he allegedly began exchanging information about the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers Europe (SHARPE), and NATO installations in Belgium with Yang Xiaonong, chief of the Parisian bureau of the Xinhua news agency, and Wang Yujiang in Brussels, both of whom were operatives of the Chinese secret service”
Note the use of the adjective: “he allegedly”. [vi] In 1962, Yang Xiaonong had became the official Xinhua correspondent in Geneva, causing him to often travel between Paris, Geneva, and Bern, thereby identified as the conduit between the missions in Switzerland and the Embassy in Paris after diplomatic relations between France and China were established in 1964.
Shekhovtsov’s account[vii] has Thiriart breaking off the collaboration.
The story gets repeated[viii] but no researcher on the Far Right has evidence that tangible cooperation was established; what they have is a story that originates with Thiriat himself, quoted in De Jeune Europe aux Brigades rouges: anti-americanisme et logique de l’engagement revolutionnaire (Nantes: Ars, 1986 and other editions).
How reliable a creditable witness is he in the absence of collaborating evidence or verifiable details? We know Chou Enlai was on a state visit to Bucharest in 1966 but the rest is speculation and supposition.
In late 1968 the PCE was officially dissolved, after which Thiriart seems to have withdrawn from politics altogether for a number of years, resurfacing with another “ideological transformation” (?) in the 1980s praising the Soviet Union right up to his death in late 1992.
To present the existence of some kind of Thirirat “maoist” movement is gross disinformation and deception. While Thiriart would say Fidel Castro and Che Guevara were heroes neither Castro nor Che themselves should be blamed : The Left bears no responsibility for the misinterpretations and presentations from the political right as with Franco Freda and other neo-fascist activists in Italy during the late 1960s and the early 1970s of their politics whereas the so-called “nazi-maoists”—assuming that they were not mere provocateurs attempting to disrupt and discredit genuine Maoists with slogans such as “Hitler and Mao united in the struggle”— appropriated symbols and slogans from the radical left, appreciated Mao for what they called his advocacy of an alleged “ascetic warrior mystique”.
There is neither the scope nor focus to delve into the interminable doctrinal disputes amongst, what passes for, fascist intellectuals, advocating an operational alliance. In reality the right-wing activists FAILED to exert any significant influence on the ideas or behaviour of left-wing revolutionaries.[ix]
[i] eg BVD ran the phony Marxist-Leninist Party of the Netherlands, its own newspaper, De Kommunist, written and edited by the secret service. To add authenticity, the party let a handful of other true believers join its otherwise non-existent ranks, telling them that they were part of a network of underground cells. Chinese diplomats in Holland invited the man they knew as Chris Petersen to their mission in The Hague and gave money to help finance a Maoist newspaper secretly edited by the BVD. He was invited for visits to Beijing.
[ii] BBC2 TV three-part TimeWatch documentary on Operation Gladio , part of a post-World War II “Stay Behind” program set up by the CIA and NATO.
[iii] If , or when, access to the relevant Chinese archives are available that judgement could be subject to modification, but in practice there is very little evidence of such intentions (or capabilities) at the time.
[iv] Shekhovtsov (2018) Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir. Abingdon: Routledge p28
[vi] Bale J.M. (2017) The Darkest Sides of Politics, I : Postwar Fascism, Covert Operations and Terrorism. London: Routledge.
[vii] Sourced to Patrice Chairoff, Dossier néo-nazisme (Paris: Ramsay, 1977), p. 445. (Unseen)
[viii] i.e. Anton Shekhovtsov (2018) Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir. Abingdon: Routledge and Martin Lee (1997) The Beast Reawakens: Fascism’s Resurgence from Hitler’s Spymasters to Today’s Neo-Nazi Groups and Right-Wing Extremists. London: Little, Brown and Company pp.168- 175.
In his retelling of the tale, The Beast Reawakens, investigative journalist Martin A. Lee also sources “Right-wing view on foreign affairs,” Patterns of Prejudice, May-June 1967 and C. C. Aronsfeld, “Right-wing flirtation with a Chinese alliance,” Patterns of Prejudice, July-August 1969; “Right-wing over the East,” Patterns of Prejudice. September-October 1968. (Unseen)
[ix] The very opposite consequences occurred with the political defection to the left casually the impression of a web of influence and causality in the connections is created. So referring to Claudio Mutti, a leading figure in Giovane Europa, the Italian branch of the Jeune Europe, as a member of the ‘nazi-maoist’ Organizzazione Lotta di Popolo (Organisation of People’s Struggle) established in 1969 by Serafina Di Luia, a member of the Avanguardia Nazionale connected to the Aginter Press and influenced by Thiriart’s ideas, tries to build an alliance of collaboration in the mind of the reader.
Whereas the consequences was that for some individuals there may have been transformation in their thinking; this in 1971 a founding member of Giovane Europa, Claudio Orsoni would create the Centre for the Study and Application of Maoist Thought. Was that part of the deception? Fascist journalist, Pino Bolzano went onto lead the daily paper of the extreme Left group Lotta Continua. Former associate of Thiriart would join the Marxist-Leninist Italian Communist Party before going on to found the Red Brigades radical leftist organization which was active in the 70s and 80s in Italy. The forementioned Claudio Mutti would form the Italian-Libyan Friendship Organization after Muammar Gaddafi took power in Libya, and later meet Russian demagogue Aleksandr Dugin in the1990s before arranging for Thiriart to visit Russia.
Main sources drawn upon the French-language work of Laurent Frederick (1978) L ‘ Orchestre Noir Paris: Stock. Work based primarily on documents discovered at PIDE and AP headquarters by leftist officers of the MFA Movimento des Forcas Armadas and the Aginter-Press archives then held in Caxias prison.
Bale J.M. (1994) The “Black” Terrorist International: Neo-Fascist Paramilitary Networks and the “Strategy of Tension” in Italy, 1968-1974. Thesis University of California at Berkeley
Bale J.M. (1989) Right-wing terrorists and the Extraparliamentary Left in post-world war Two Europe: Collusion or manipulation. Lobster #18 October 1982:2-18
Christie, Stuart (1984) Stefano Dell Chiale: portrait of a black terrorist. Refract Publication
Ganser, Daniele (2004) NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe. London: Routledge
Lovell, Julia (2019) Maoism: A Global History. London: Bodley Head
Lee, Martin (1997) The Beast Reawakens: Fascism’s Resurgence from Hitler’s Spymasters to Today’s Neo-Nazi Groups and Right-Wing Extremists. London: Little, Brown and Company
Richards, Sam (n.d.) Against Lies, Provocations & Infiltration. Unpublished MS
Shekhovtsov, Anton (2018) Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir. London: Routledge
Special Carabinieri Operational Grouping – Eversion Department
Criminal proceedings against Rognoni Giancarlo and others . Annotation on psychological and unorthodox warfare activities,(psychological and low density warfare ) carried out in Italy between 1969 and 1974 through the “AGINTER PRESSE” . Rome: July 23, 1996.
Procedimento penale nei confronti di ROGNONI Giancarlo ed altri.
Procedimento penale sulla Strage di Piazza della Loggia – Nuovo Rito.
Annotazione sulle attività di guerra psicologica e non ortodossa, (psychological and low density warfare) compiute in Italia tra il 1969 e il 1974 attraverso l’ “AGINTER PRESSE”.
As reported by the American alternative news service, LIBERATION News Service (#677) February 12, 1975
The Formation of Aginter Press
But the Portuguese documents tell a different story. According to them, Aginter was formed in 1962 largely by former members of the German Gestapo and the French Secret Army Organization (OAS). With strong links to PIDE, Aginter quickly offered its agents courses in sabotage, espionage and terrorism. These “skills” were learned primarily from their experience in the OAS during the war for Algerian independence in the late fifties and early sixties.
After 1965, with the help of PIDE funding, the agency began a coordinated effort to infiltrate European left and extreme left movements.
At the time, their activities were concentrated in Italy, France, Switzerland and Germany.
According to the archives in Lisbon, Aginter also developed into a recruitment and training program for rightist terrorists and mercenaries operating throughout the world. The documents say Aginter provided lessons in sabotage and counterinsurgency programs, as well as a manual of instructions on how to resist interrogation.
Aginter was involved, as well, in counterrevolutionary activities in the 1960s in many African countries such as Guinea-Bissau, the Congo (now independent Zaire), Gabon, Senegal and Angola.
The documents also link the former press agency to a network of European neo-Nazi organizations currently active throughout Europe such as Europe Action, the Black Order (an Italian organization with suspected involvement in a recent conspiracy for an ultra-rightist takeover of the Italian government), and the New European Order.
And the archives are said to name several high ranking political figures in France and Germany as involved in these organizations.
In the most recent development, dozens of rightists met in Lyons, France, December 27, 28 and 29, 1974, at a quiet congress of the “New European Order.” They represented fascist organizations in France, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Denmark and Latin America. The meeting also included Czechoslovakian and Yugoslavian exiles, according to the New York Times report.
Among the participants was Yves Guillou, former director of Aginter Press.
“New European Order” was founded in 1951 by former Nazis who escaped execution at the end of World War II. Its founders still head the organization. They are Gaston Amaudruz, former Gestapo agent now living in Lausanne, Switzerland, a Swedish Nazi named Per Engdahl, and Maurice Bardeche from France.
A declaration issued after the congress demanded the immediate release of Nazi war criminal Rudolf Hess, still in jail in West Germany. The Order says Hess has been “imprisoned for more than thirty years for having wanted to re-establish peace, along with numerous comrades who fought for Europe.”
Among others mentioned by the Order’s declaration was Jacques Vasseur who, according to Le Monde, was well known to the French resistance as a collaborator with the Gestapo in France.
Following the conference came a report from Italian magistrates revealing a heavy arms traffic from Marseille to Africa, controlled by “MGM,” an Italy-based import-export agency, controlled by European fascists.
Formed in the early ’70s, its alleged purpose is “the acquistion and sale of all commercial products,” but the organization, it has been revealed, is mainly involved in buying heavy military equipment including tanks, bomber planes, missiles and submachine guns. The Italian investigation has linked several Italian participants at the fascist congress in Lyons with MGM.
MGM apparently buys arms from French, Swiss and Belgian manufacturers, through two middlemen, Gilbert Lapeyrie, a former Gestapo agent, and Cesar Dauwe. The arms, then, have been primarily sold in Africa. Dauwe was arrested and temporarily freed when his involvement with an arms shipment bound for Ghana was discovered.
“What is particularly disturbing in this affair,” wrote the French paper, Liberation, recently, “is that fascists can control a flow of arms of such importance and particularly to Africa. You can count those who are capable of selling these kinds of weapons on the fingers of one hand. And when you understand the French and American interests in this area, it’s clear that this traffic couldn’t take place without their knowledge.”
These background notes on China’s engagement in Africa in the 1960s and 1970s concentrates on what was seen as its revolutionary diplomacy. The initial spur, and borrowed title came from reading this article from China Reconstruct.
There are dated general overviews such as Hutchinson (1975), and more general discussion provided for a survey of China’s involvement with national liberation movements[i] .These plagiarised notes draw freely upon the thesis by Ismail Debeche (1987), Julia Lovell (2019) and Peking Review, and more overtly unsympathetic sources like Chau (2014), US Government and CIA reports, and localised focused expositions. Other sources read, and not always acknowledged can be found in the bibliography at the end.
Going around the compass, geographically (and roughly chronology) the main focus of Chinese engagement began in North Africa with transversion to, firstly West and central Africa, across to the eastern seaboard and then southwards
The focus post-Bundung was North Africa, initially Egypt where China’s first African embassy opened in 1956. China contributed annual funds to the AAPSO, Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organization demonstrating its commitment to African nationalism. Its permanent secretariat was based in Cairo.
Before the end of the 1950s China had extended financial and other aid, plus training, to the Front de Liberation (F.L.N.) as support for revolutionary activity in Algeria received priority. Articles published in the Peking Review gave moral support to the Algerian cause. In November 1957 a public display of support saw China celebrated a “national day of solidarity with the Algerian people.” A resolution adopted at the rally pledged “full support for the just cause of the people of Algeria and of Africa as a whole in their efforts to secure and safeguard their national independence.”
China was the first Communist country to establish official diplomatic relations with the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic (Gouvernement Provisionel de la République Algérienne) after its formation in the autumn of 1958. There was Support Algeria Week (5–11 April 1959) and in May 1959 the Algerian military delegation spent a month in China.
While more specific evidence would offer a detailed assessment of Chinese operations, clearly China was intent on providing the FLN with whatever support was needed—from weapons and equipment to funds and training—to achieve independence, which it did in 1962.
On 22 December 1963 an New China News Agency (NCN A) correspondent writing from Algiers “described how he had been left with the impression that Mao’s work enjoyed wide popularity among the people.” According to the correspondent, Mao’s works on guerrilla warfare circulated underground, in prison, and among FLN guerrillas. He also recalled how he had found four well-worn volumes of Mao’s Selected Works in French and a copy of Problems of Strategy in China’s Revolutionary War, copiously annotated in Arabic, in the political commissar’s office in a barracks near the Moroccan border
China’s success in Algeria “opened the gates”‘ for other African anti-imperialist forces and movements to follow suit. Not only revolutionary uprisings in the Congo (1960-65) Cameroun (1960-65) and Zanzibar (1964) but also the transformation of national independence movements in the Portuguese colonies and in southern Africa were inspired by the victory of FLN in Algeria.
To the south, Niger did not establish diplomatic relations with China until July 1974, a situation largely related to the latter’s support for the outlawed liberation party (Swabain opposition to the French-dominated regime of Diori. In February 1965, 23 Sawaba fighters were arrested, according to a government announcement. The previous autumn of 1964 saw many Sawaba members executed in public. The president of Niger, Hamani Diori, accuse it, and Peking, of subversion.
The domestic roots of the conflict were often under reported in the attempt to reinforce and prove a tie-in with the Chinese and emphasis an international communist subversion in Africa.
While militants had been trained by Chinese experts in Ghana, Algeria (after the latter’s independence in July 1962), and at Nanjing in China. The public denunciations proved part of the anti-communist Cold War offensive with the American ambassador accusation that the China might certainly have been behind this assassination attempt on President Hamani in April 1965. [ii]The manipulation of news management has not just been a feature of the digital age with fake news being a feature of the propaganda offensive against an opponent as a practiced art. [ See fake news is not new]
Neighbouring Mali presents a contrasting picture. From 1960 (the year of its independence) until the overthrow of President Modibo Keita in 1968, Mali was perhaps the only African country which openly took China’s side as opposed to the Soviet Union’s on most international issues – and especially those concerning the best means of struggle against colonialism, imperialism and neo-colonialism.
The leaders of Mali have made numerous and long pro-Chinese statements. Among these we might single out the one statement which appears to be most significant and which was made by the Minister of Development of Mali, Seydu Badian Kuyate, on 10 July 1964, after his return from a visit to China:
“The help of the Chinese People’s Republic is the most valuable of all the help which Black Africa is getting currently. Africa is poor and Chinese aid fits perfectly into our needs and our local conditions. One could not possibly speak of Chinese neocolonialism in Africa. There is no more selfless aid than the aid of continental China.
On the other hand, this aid is also the most efficient and most interesting if we compare it with the aid from the other countries which costs us much more. At any rate, what Mali gets from the Western and socialist countries could not possibly measure up to what we get from China” [iii]
The experience in West Africa was a mixed bag. The observations of a Chinese journalist did see the publication of Glimpses of West Africa by Feng Chih-tan in the early stages of diplomatic engagement in 1963. However generally, China’s viewpoint can be found in the writings of Mao Zedong, and to a lesser extent in the record of Zhou Enlai’s 1964 African tour. They were made available in reports in Peking Review and in the 1964 Foreign Language Press publication, Afro-Asian Solidarity Against Imperialism: A Collection of Documents, Speeches and Press Interviews from the Visits of Chinese Leaders to Thirteen African and Asian Countries.
Connections and relationship were built under the progressive regimes such as Nkrumah’s Ghana and Sekou Toure’s uncompromising and aggressive posture against colonialist and imperialist powers, and on the firm support given by his government to national liberation movements and revolutionary forces in the Cameroon, the Congo and other parts of Africa.
Ahmed Sekou Toure was the first African Head of State to visit -China (10-15 September 1960). GUINEA under Sekou Toure received 9.8% of China’s total aid to Sub-Saharan Africa during this period (1959-66). [iv]
Critical of the wavering support given by the Soviet Union, Sino-Guinean relations characterised Guinea as one of the leading progressive countries in Africa. Guinea’s support for China during the Cultural Revolution illustrated its militant relationship with China during this period. In 1967, Guinea itself launched its own ‘cultural revolution’ and formed its own version of the ‘Red Guards’ – Jeunesse du Rassemblement Democratique (JRDA).
The economic cooperation included a package of military aid for the liberation fighters of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde.
The PAIGC – the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde – resistance forces led by Amilcar Cabral found the neighbouring Guinea, independent since 1958, prepared not only to allow it to have a base in its territory but also to facilitate external financial and military support. In Guinea, It was here that PAIGC’s first contact with China took place.
In July 1960, a PAIGC delegation visited China. From the following year, PAIGC guerrilla forces received training in China. In 1963 a group of PAIGC guerrilla fighters went to China for advanced training after undertaking their initial training in Ghana. In October 1964, Aristedes Perreira, a member of the Political Bureau and Deputy General Secretary of PAIGC visited China where he attended China’s National Day (1 October).
Cameroon was the first instance of a country in Africa in which China openly took the side of a national liberation movement led by militant party Union des Populations du Cameroon (UPC) against the established government. the Soviet Union urged compromise, supported the government of Ahidjo and urged UPC leaders to give up their armed struggle and join the central government.
In pro-Western and pro-imperialist government of Ahmadou Ahidjo was opposed by the UPC with its radical character and communist inclinations.
UPC’s armed struggle against French colonial rule (from 1958 onwards) had seen more than 80,000 French troops were sent to the colony. Over 50,000 Cameroonians were thrown into concentration camps.
In 1958, Ernest Ounadie the Vice President of UPC paid his first visit to China where he was promised its continuing and resolute support.: In February 1959, Jean Paul Sende, a UPC leader, visited China where he attended a mass rally in Beijing organised by the Chinese Committee for Afro- Asian Solidarity to commemorate ‘Cameroon Day’ (18 February).
In January 1960, Ahmadou Ahidjo, the UNC leader, was made the first President of the French occupied eastern region of Cameroon, A year later (October 1961), the British-administered southern part was integrated with the eastern Cameroon into the newly established Federal Republic of Cameroon.
UPC’s headquarters moved from Cairo to Accra, a location which was strategically better suited to the organisation and meant guerrilla operations and armed activities were undertaken easier. The Chinese had continued to help the Cameroun U.P.C. based in Accra. Their aid had partly been channelled through the Afro-Asian Solidarity Fund and partly had consisted of the training of Cameroonians in guerrilla tactics in China.
In Ghana, Nkrumah’s ideology encompassed both Socialist and pan-African beliefs. Nkrumah’s interest in supporting African national liberation movements, for example, at the end of 1957 Nkrumah invited the Cameroonian guerrilla movement Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (Union des Populations du Cameroun, or UPC) to move its headquarters from Cairo to Accra.
August 1960 two Chinese diplomats and five officials arrived in Accra to open the first Chinese embassy in Ghana. Treaty of Friendship between China and Ghana that was signed in Beijing in 1961 was followed, In October 1962, with the protocol of the agreement on economic and technical cooperation
Chinese activity in Ghana continued in earnest after codification of another
agreement, this one with strategic ramifications across Africa. In 1964 “the two countries signed a secret agreement for the provision of military equipment and advisers for Ghana’s ‘freedom fighters.’”
Following a coup against Nkhrumah, documentary evidence, published by the Ministry of Information, in two brochures in November 1966 provided a detailed information and an account of the operation of the camps – A copy of the Protocol Agreement for Chinese military experts working in Ghana signed by Huang Hua, was included as Appendix B .[v]
The evidence from the files of the Bureau of African Affairs confirmed Ghana under Nkrumah had been host to training freedom fighters since 1961. Nkrumah had authorised the setting up and used three successive camps for this purpose. Soviet instructors had originally staffed the camps but were replaced by Chinese instructors in September 1964. The formal agreement between the governments of Ghana and China covering the assignment of guerrilla warfare instructors in Ghana was signed in August 1965.
Back in September 1961 Peking Review had published a brief article entitled “China and Africa.” It read in full,
“Chinese and African peoples have established a militant friendship in the struggle against their common enemy, imperialism. The Chinese people have always shown the deepest sympathy for and resolutely supported the African peoples in their patriotic struggle for national liberation against imperialism and colonialism. They have demonstrated these sentiments in various ways.”
The suspicion in the West framed the issue as if China was furthering Ghana as its base of operations from whence it could support liberation and guerrilla movements across Africa. The problem with this pictured was the assumption of China as masterminding this onslaught in a controlling and directing rather than supportive manner. China was legally active in Ghana by agreement of the two governments, but the activity focused mainly on the training and arming of African fighters. The agency was African revolutionary sentiments not some bureaucratic planning in downtown Beijing. Aid and assistance were provided to the willing.
October 1964 a five-member team of Chinese guerrilla warfare experts arrived at a training camp in Half Assini, a village near the Ghana–Ivory Coast border. They inaugurated a twenty-day course that consisted of training in the manufacture and use of explosives, guerrilla tactics, and basic guiding and thinking on armed struggle.
Camp Half Assini was closed down due to its proximity to the border, distance from Accra, and poor lines of communications—specifically, the condition of the roads. At the same time, a replacement camp was created at Obenemasi, the site of an abandoned goldmine.
Training at Camp Obenemasi included guerrilla warfare, explosives, and weapons, but also the use of telecommunications equipment and battlefield first aid. By January 1965 multiple sources reported that Camp Obenemasi had 210 students and 17 Chinese instructors. In May 1965 a new course at Camp Obenemasi started with fifty students from Niger.
The Chinese program in Ghana attracted Africans from many parts of the continent, including Angola, Cameroon, Congo-Kinshasa, Gabon, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Upper Volta (present-day Burkina Faso), and Zambia.
Conversely, a large, disparate number of African youths were trained in China at three secret training centres: Harbin in Manchuria, Nanjing on the Yangtze River, and in Shantung Province on the North China coast. Africans were from Algeria, Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zanzibar. The guerrilla warfare course in China lasted from 7 October 1964 until 13 February 1965 and was described by one of the participants from Ghana as “a 90-day course in theory and practice . . . arduous and intensive.” Ghana had become a base of operations for African radicals and guerrilla groups.
In 1965 Upper Volta (present-day Burkina Faso) accused President Nkrumah of sending “subversives” to neighbouring countries, while President Diori Hamani of Niger charged China with trying to smuggled [Communist-trained Africans] into Niger by way of Ghana and that his country would seek outside aid if the Communist infiltration increases.
Amplified by western sources was the idea that China was targeting West Africa through Ghana—to further its political interests in Africa. What was exaggerated was the influence of Chinese doctrine and tactics, as if Nkrumah’s programme for training guerilla fighters from independent African countries organised through Accra’s Bureau of African Affairs was controlled and master -minded by the Chinese Communists. The charge was of exporting ‘revolution’ to West and Central Africa implied a directing hand with a Pan-African strategy and the questionable accusation was presented as plausible and subsequently accepted as true.
On 24 February 1966 a coup d’état removed Nkrumah from power and changed the country’s foreign and security policy. Over 1,000 Russians, East Europeans, and Chinese (even though the Chinese personnel, including guerrilla instructors, were in Ghana at the request and signed agreement of a legal and popular government) were promptly expelled after the coup.
– Look at the numbers involved: The Peking Review later reported that a group of Chinese experts and embassy staff, numbering 125, returned to China on 5 March. Four days after the coup, moreover, Ghana sent a diplomatic note to the Chinese embassy requesting all Chinese technical experts working in Ghana to leave immediately. As a result, Ghana expelled 665 Soviet and 430 Chinese nationals, including three intelligence officers and thirteen guerrilla instructors who were training liberation fighters. [vi]
An aide-mémoire dated 20 October from the Ghanaian ministry of foreign affairs had informed the Chinese embassy that Ghana was suspending relation ns between the two countries. All embassy staff would withdraw by 5 November 1966. It was not until February 1972 that China and Ghana issued a joint press communiqué on the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
China’s relations with neighbouring Nigeria were far different to those with Ghana. In the later stages of the Nigerian civil war, China gave its moral support to the Biafran separatist movement against the Federal government in Lagos. A delegation from Biafra which went to China (October 1967) seeking military support had returned empty-handed.
China’s recognition of Biafra (23 September 1968) came at a time (after the Soviet invasion in August of Czechoslovakia) when Sino-Soviet relations were fast deteriorating and the Soviet Union had established itself as the major supplier of military aid to the Federal Government of Nigeria. China viewed the Soviet Union’s association with the Federal Government of Nigeria as clear evidence of what China had begun to characterise (from 1968 onwards) as ‘Soviet social imperialism’.
China’s decision to recognise Biafra was perhaps also influenced to a degree by its friendly relations with Tanzania and Zambia, which – along with the Ivory Coast and Gabon – were the only African countries to recognise (April-May 1968) Biafra. The Federal government had not yet established diplomatic relations with China.
Ismail Debeche thought that,
“China’s justification of its stand on Biafra seemed to stem from humanitarian grounds rather than political grounds. China accepted the assessment that the mass of the Biafran people were being oppressed and massacred by the federal troops.” [vii]
The Congo had become independent from Belgium in June 1960. There were two countries called Congo delineated by their respective capitals: Leopoldville and Brazzaville .[viii]
Under PatriceLumumba, the first legally elected prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a political leader committed to a non-tribal nationalist ideology, insisted on a centralised government, and who, in his speeches and statements, made no secret of his antiimperialist and nationalist inclinations. [ix]
The Congo (Leopoldville) Crisis 1960-65 saw a separatist rebellion in a southern province and Belgian military intervention in the country.
The central government requested (11 July 1960) UN to intervene. The Leopoldville government hoped that UN troops would put an end to both Katanga’s separatism under Moïse Tshombe, and foreign intervention however the Western powers as well as Lumumba’s internal enemies conspired for his removal through a military coup. Mobutu, the Chief of Staff, was chosen to lead the coup. The UN forces in Leopoldville under Kettani, a Moroccan General, provided the financial and military help with which a coup was organised to take place 14 September 1960.
Lumumba was captured and then murdered by Belgian-led Katangese troops on 17 January 1961, and eventually Mobutu made himself President in November 1965. [x]
The resistance continued, led byPierre Mulele (1929 – 1968) who had been minister of education in Patrice Lumumba‘s cabinet. In China in 1963 to received military training, Pierre Mulelle also took a group of Congolese youths with him, who received training in guerrilla tactics. Mulele had returned to the Congo, where he formed a Youth Movement (Jeunesse Mouvement) in Kwilu Province (South-Western Congo – East Leopoldville). Mulele’s movement was influenced by China’s strategy of people’s war and Mao’s classic ‘Eight simple and straightforward rules’ of military behaviour.
China was able to supply military and financial aid to the anti-government forces led by Mulele and Gbenye. Chinese military were active in training Congolese guerrilla forces in Tanzania and neighbouring Congo (Brazzaville).
The western press had reports of collusion, that many Chinese communist advisors have visited the zone under rebel control; Le Monde reported the presence of Chinese officials in the regions of Impfondo, Gambona and Fort Rousset, where training camps were set up for the Congo rebels. These camps were directed by young Congolese trained in Peking.[xi]
The intervention of Belgian troops came when rebels who had seized Stanleyville (later renamed Kisangani) were suppressed by central government troops officered by foreign mercenaries. The landing of Belgian paratroopers in November 1964, from five United States Air ForceC-130 transports dropped 350 Belgian paratroopers of the Paracommando Regiment onto the airfield at Stanleyville to rescue European hostage between 1,500 and 2,000, many of them missionaries and teachers. Most of the captives were Belgians, but they included a significant number of Americans and other nationalities. Tshombe, echoing the western narrative said: “I have absolute proof of communist participation in the rebellion in the Congo,” charging Peking with “trying to create a permanent center of subversion on African soil and a new international trouble spot.”
“The Reds wanted the vast mineral wealth of the Congo, but America in the form of the CIA stepped in and, assisted by Belgium, funded a mercenary army whose objective was to keep the Congo aligned to Western interests. It was Prime Minister Moise Tshombe who called in white soldiers of fortune, mainly South Africans” mercenary soldiers under the leadership of Lt Colonel Mike Hoare. “
August 1964. Prime Minister Moise Tshombe showed the press “weapons, explosives, and documents” which had been captured and which had come from the UAR, Algeria, and China. He accused the Chinese Embassy in Brazzaville of helping the CNL [National Liberation Committee] for the purpose of engaging in subversion. He once again attacked the use of Burundi and Congo (Brazzaville) by China as “helpers in China’s subversion campaign against the Congo.”
Such was the obsession with Chinese infiltration, for good measure, another accusation was added; the missionary Father Josef Scheonen, who lived in Kivu for 10 years, testified that China was supplying arms, opium, and heroin to the Congolese rebels.
Fake news is not just a feature of today’s politics.
In October 1968, after mediation by the Soviet Union and the Congo (B), Mobutu lured Pierre Mulele out of exile under a guarantee of safe conduct and amnesty. Mulele returned to Congo-Kinshasa. A Wikipedia entry notes:
“he was publicly tortured and executed: his eyes were pulled from their sockets, his genitals were ripped off, and his limbs were amputated one by one, all while he was alive. What was left was dumped in the Congo River.”
The Belgian Maoist leader Ludo Martens wrote extensively on Pierre Mulelle who led a maoist faction in the Kwilu Province and rebel activity in the Simba rebellion of 1964.
China’s 1964 statements “In Support of the People of the Congo (Leopoldville) Against US Imperialism”.
In January 1966 China agreed to construct a broadcasting station in the Congo(B). Within a short period (March 1967), the project was completed. It was named ‘The Voice of the Congolese(B) Revolution’. This station was to be used for revolutionary campaigning in support of liberation forces in the Congo(K), Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Mozambique and other countries in southern Africa.
Congo(B) announced in 1967 the creation of a militia, the –Jeunesse du Mouvement do la Revolution (JMNR) China was invited to train and arm the militia which ‘openly professed admiration for Chairman Mao’. At the same time, China was already involved in training African guerrilla forces in the camps of Bouanga, Dombona and Ipfonda in the Congo(B).
In June 1968, a high-level military delegation visited the Congo (B) from China to attend the 4th annual celebration of the Congolese (B) People’s Army Day (22 June 1968). In July, a military delegation visited China from the Congo(B).
In the western driven narrative, the East African state of Tanzania was regarded as heavily influenced by the People’s Republic of China. Under the leadership of the African National Union and President Julius Nyerere, the country issued the Arusha Declaration in 1967. The theme of the Arusha Declaration was to place emphasis on national self-reliance, the uplifting and empowerment of the peasantry as well as the realization of socialism based on the concrete conditions existing in Tanzania.
Following Nyerere’s visit to China in February 1965, the newspaper Nationalist printed an editorial stating,
The Chinese people support us Africans in the struggle to oppose imperialism and colonialism, new and old, and to win and safeguard out national independence…They support the Africans policy of peace, neutrality and nonalignment. They support Africa’s desire to achieve unity and solidarity in a manner of its own choice as well as its efforts to settle its own internal disputes through peaceful consultations…Above all, the Chinese have expressed their respect for the sovereignty of the African countries and have undertaken to avoid encroachment or interference in our political affairs.[xiii]
Interestingly in was neighbouring Zanzibar that first drew the ire of western propagandists.
The Cold War warriors would point to Abdul Rahman Mohamed (popularly known as “Babu” (1924 –1996), a Zanzibar-born Marxist and pan-Africanist nationalist, who played an important role in the 1964 Zanzibar revolution, served as a minister under Julius Nyerere after the island was merged with mainland Tanganyika to form Tanzania. [xiv]
The idea of Chinese experience being relevant in Africa was not a Chinese opinion alone as African radicals regarded It as providing both inspiration and a model for a host of anticolonial struggles across Africa and Asia. Abdul Rahman Mohamed (also known as “Babu”), secretary general of the Zanzibar Nationalist Party ZNP, visited China in January 1960. His opponents regarded him a Chinese agent of influence. Others saw him, as he saw himself, as an African revolutionary.
Amrit Wilson noted that Babu, was also, like many other young Africans and Asians of the period, inspired by the Chinese revolution. He had studied it in detail, but particularly for its relevance to Africa. China’s socialist revolution, he wrote:
“was an extension of its own liberation struggle and consequently there was a very thin dividing line between her nationalism and socialism. This dual loyalty to the two great movements of the period, enabled the Chinese to share more intimately the sentiments and aspirations of Africa’s liberation struggles and the struggle for national reconstruction both of which were Africa’s top priority.” [xv]
Babu had visited Mao Zedong’s China in 1959. and built close relations with the Chinese leadership , viewed by the British as “the best known Sinophile” in the area. Babu had a key role to play in the establishment of the TAZARA Railway ,offering both freight and passenger transportation services between and within Tanzania and Zambia, with the help of Chinese aid. Babu was among the progressive, leftist members of the Zanzibari government who was retained in the new joint Cabinet Dar es Salaam when the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar occurred on 26 April 1964 resulting in the creation of Tanzania
His connections to China continued, and his ideological affinity and work with the New China News Agency made him a good channel of communication with Beijing. He had an international profile attending in July 1964 at the second summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Cairo and meeting and became friends with, as well as arguably influencing, people like Malcolm X.
Abdul Rahman Babu was one of Africa’s foremost thinkers and analysts. A leader of the anti-colonial struggle in Zanzibar and of the Zanzibar revolution, Babu was seen as a threat by the US government and his approach would bring him into sharp contradiction with Nyerere’s perspective on African Socialism.[xvi]
According to the US representative in the country, Petterson,
“Babu did not confine his revolutionary Marxism to words. In June 1962, he fomented the burning of the British Information Office and was accused of other acts of sabotage. He was convicted of sedition and spent fifteen months in jail. It was believed that he was behind an arson attempt against the American consulate in August 1961” [xvii]
The UK intelligence agencies had been keeping an eye on Babu from his early days in Britain. The UK Foreign Office noted, for example, on February 23, 1962:
The subject has a long record of Communist activity dating back to 1951 … he is believed to be a member of the British Communist Party and … to have lectured at their school in Hastings on the ‘Problems of Imperialism’… quickly established contact with the WFTU and other Communist organizations …. He became the principal East Africa correspondent for the New China News Agency, the editor of ZaNews, a particularly scurrilous pro-Communist news sheet and most significantly General Secretary of the ZNP …. Was largely instrumental in setting up the ZNP Cairo office as a staging point for students travelling along the iron curtain countries pipeline …. Subject attended an anti-atom bomb conference in Japan in July 1961, and strongly supported a resolution that none of the countries present should allow American consulates or bases in their countries. Shortly after his return an abortive attempt was made to set fire to the American Consulate in Zanzibar. [xviii]
Petterson repeated the political smear that it was well known “that Babu and his Umma Party are bought and sold by Peking. Chicoms have furnished Babu with New China News Agency material, duplicating equipment, vehicles, propaganda material, tickets for tours and scholarships for [a] number of years.” [xix]
He stated that
“The U.S. government strictly enjoined American officials abroad from any contact with the Chinese, because the United States did not recognize Communist China. Perhaps an added reason for shunning the Chinese was that in the American line up of Cold War villains, Communist China was seen as particularly nefarious” [xx]
The cold war scenario meant that the United States was convinced that China, or the ‘Chicoms’ as the Americans called the Chinese, were behind every change in the weather. Despite the absence of any tangible evidence, China’s big initial success, according to Western intelligence, in Africa was in helping to stage a revolution in Zanzibar in 1964. China recognized the revolutionary government of the People’s Republic of Zanzibar on 17 January 1964
‘Although documentary proof not available, circumstantial evidence of Chicom involvement in [the] Zanzibar revolt … points strongly to Chicom participation in financing and planning the coup … there is no hard evidence yet’
In that casual colonialist racist frame-of-mind, the explanation from Lord Colyton, a former junior minister in the Colonial Office in the House of Lords, suggested that Beijing had planned the whole revolution. British officials read it wrong thinking Peking had designed to turn the island into a centre of revolutionary subversion in the newly independent countries of Africa.
It was not only the Chinese put into the frame: false rumours of direct Cuban involvement surrounded intelligence-fed press coverage; The Sunday Telegraph 19th January 1964 furnished “proof” that the Chinese newspaperman Kao Liang was the instigator of the revolt in Zanzibar! Being a confirmative source, US ambassador Leonhart referred to revolutionary Zanzibar “as the Cuba of Africa” analogy, spoke of its use as a base for subversion on the mainland, and called for U.S. military intervention.
The often reported key US manipulator and destabilizer of progressive governments, Frank Carlucci, had on January 12, 1964 arrived in Zanzibar. He had come directly from the Congo where the CIA had been deeply involved in the overthrow of Lumumba, and this perhaps shows just how seriously the Zanzibar revolution was being viewed by the State Department. The Congo had seen Carlucci’s record of destabilizations, that would include service in Brazil and Portugal. His aim now, in his own words, was to prevent Zanzibar becoming ‘an African Cuba from which sedition would have spread to the continent’ [xxi]
In Zanibar western claim that China’s was the hidden hand behind such a Revolution. Zhou Enlai during a visit to Somalia, explained that the revolution in Zanzibar was the outcome of the work of its people and not that of outside communists because revolution can neither be exported nor be imported; only when the people of the country have awakened can they drive the aggressors out and overthrow their oppressors. Of course we do not conceal the fact that we sympathise with and support the revolutionary struggles of the peoples. [xxii]
On 20 February 1964, China offered aid to Zanzibar in terms of “men, machines, and money.” In accepting this offer, the minister of Foreign Affairs Abdul Rahmam Maomed announced: “There are people who say that Zanzibar is the Cuba of Africa but nothing could be further from the truth”
In his pen portrait of Babu, Petterson speaks of his magnetic personality. [xxiii] Babu was intellectually and emotionally committed to Marxism then and remained so throughout his life. Babu had been in London in 1951 to study journalism at the Regent Street Polytechnic.
“At the outset of our conversation, Babu insisted that Zanzibar had no quarrel with the United States and wanted the friendship of the U.S. government. Zanzibar, he said, did not wish to be involved in “Cold War propaganda or activities.” Its foreign policy would be an African policy whose ultimate goal was African unity. Its domestic objective would be the elimination of poverty; to achieve this end, he said, Zanzibar had to become a socialist state, for it did not have the time that the United States and Britain had to develop their economies.” [xxiv]
Yet behind embassy walls there was discussions of how Babu’s power could be “drastically reduced or eliminated.” [xxv]
All the Communist missions offered scholarships and overseas training opportunities for young Zanzibaris. The Soviets had a military training unit and continued to provide arms and equipment. They bought a large amount of cloves. The Chinese interest-free loan was appreciated, as was their military training and agricultural technical assistance. The East Germans were slow to get off the mark on their housing project, but the promise of it kept the Zanzibari leaders happy for the time being. The East Germans were also developing a plan to build a radio transmitter.
In February 1964 Babu, the former correspondent of the NCNA who was at one point general secretary of the ZNP, became minister in the union government. In planning the new Zanzibar economy Babu had turned to China – a country which had not only confronted underdevelopment and imperialist plunder but was, at that time, the only third world country that had developed an economy independent of external resources. The economic relationship with Tanzania was symbolised by the build of the TAZARA Railway.
Babu remained in the union government until 1972, when he was dropped from the cabinet. Nyerere, by this time, had consolidated power and acted following Karume’s assassination, the President of Zanzibar, on April 7 1972, Karume was killed in Zanzibar by a man whose father he had murdered. Babu along with 40 other Umma Party members were arbitrarily incarcerated, jailed for alleged involvement, despite a lack of evidence, leading to death sentences three years later, but after an international campaign under the leadership of people like the Guyanese and Pan African freedom fighter Walter Rodney that Babu was released after six years.
After his release Babu remained a vocal critic of imperialism, authoritarian states and excessively statist (as well as private capitalist) development models. He came into conflict with the policies of ‘African socialism’ espoused by President Julius Nyerere. Babu’s well-known book Socialist Africa or African Socialism, was written in Ukonga prison in Dar es Salaam and the manuscript smuggled out :
“At this crucial historical juncture, anti-colonial nationalism has already exhausted its potential and run out of steam. Its limited objectives have led perilously to the bleak realm of graft, corruption and economic decline. Its former usefulness has actually turned into a negation of all that Africa has stood for and indeed fought for. Only through socialism, whose direction has already been pointed out by the Zanzibar revolution, it can re-emerge from the shackles of neo-colonialism and imperialists domination with their legacy of poverty, starvation and disease. Only socialism can put Africa once again on the road to rejuvenation and rekindle that post-independence mass enthusiasm which has now everywhere been replaced by cynicism. Only socialism can open the way towards turning the entire continent into a unified, progressive Africa, utilising its almost unlimited natural and human resources for the benefit of its people. Only socialism can turn Africa into a giant among giants today. That is the meaning and legacy of the Zanzibar revolution.”
In exile, Babu went to the United States, lecturing and teaching at Amherst College. Later in1984 Babu made London his home, teaching at Birkbeck College, University of London and doing freelance writing, until his death in 1996.
Tanzania drew concern because of its perceived priority was to support those still struggling for national independence against the remnants of colonial rule specifically in Southern Africa. It offered a home and organising base for national liberation movements and facilitated military training as had Nkrumah’s Ghana before them.
In 1964, Tanzania had an official Chinese military mission to train its army, as distinguished from the clandestine training of guerrilla forces in Ghana and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
In August 1964 the Tanzanian government invited a Chinese military mission of eleven instructors to teach in the use of Chinese weapons. The military mission consisted of seven instructors and four interpreters and arrived some time before 9 September. Aid was taken from where it was offered as Tanzania was host to other instructors from the Soviets and East Germans.
Whereas such miniscule presence was given prominence, less publicity or concern was expressed at Sandhurst trained military or those taught the art of coup d’etat by the Americans, French or Belgians.
There was assistance in other forms .In early December 1966 President Nyerere opened a $560,000 short wave radio transmitter built with aid from China. Marking the occasion, Ambassador Ho said, “This station will help in the liberation of Africa.” As did training guerrillas in southern Tanzania to fight in Mozambique and other areas of southern Africa. Geographically, Tanzania provided a crossing point for liberation fighters going to the battlefields of southern Africa. Through Tanzania with which it had friendly relations, China was able to provide financial and military support to FRELIMO, not only an anti-colonial but also an anti-imperialist movement. As far as FRELIMO was concerned, Portuguese colonialism could not be separated from its NATO allies in the Mozambican people’s struggle for national liberation.
In October 1964 the Portuguese reported that five groups of guerrillas had penetrated Portugal’s East African territory of Mozambique from (then) Tanganyika. In operations against the guerrillas, the Portuguese captured guerrilla general Lucas Fernandes, who “was said to have received his military training in Peking.”
According to additional Portuguese reports, the Soviet Union and China were aiding Algerians, Cubans, and Tanzanians to subvert Portuguese Africa. The New York Times reported that arms and munitions were landing in Tanzania , repeating CIA reports that Pointe Noire in Congo-Brazzaville and Mtwara in Tanzania were entry points for Chinese arms for liberation movements in Mozambique and Angola using Chinese trucks to transport weapons to the Congo and the Mozambique border
Dr. Eduardo Mondlarfe was able to mobilise Mozambican groups and parties in a national united front for Mozambique’s independence under the name of the Frente de Liberta cao de Mozambique (FRELIMO, June 1962).
China’s relations with FRELIMO began almost two years (January 1963) before the beginning of guerrilla warfare in Mozambique (September 1964). In 1963, five FRELIMO delegations visited China, one of which (January) was led by Mondlane himself. On his return from China, Mondlane described the Chinese model for national liberation as stimulating to the African people and that he was very much impressed by the enthusiasm of the Chinese people towards the national liberation movement in Africa and their willingness to support the African people’s struggle.
When Western reports spoke of landings of weapons from Chinese ships in the Congo, these weapons were earmarked for the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola. Initial support for the MPLA became defined by Cold War politics. In 1962–1963, China stopped being a major supporter of the pro-Soviet MPLA. [xxvi]
China’s involvement followed Organization of Africa Unity’s recognition for the three major liberation movements in Anglo: the Movimento Popular de Libertacao de Angola (MPLA), Uniao Nacional para a Independencia Total de Angola (UNITA), and the Frente Nacional para Libertacao de Angola (FNLA).
In 1963, Holden Roberto of FNLA met with Foreign Minister Chen Yi in Nairobi, and China is reported to have agreed to provide most of their armaments. Likewise, in 1964, Jonas Savimbi of UNITA met with Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou En-lai in China, where he received military training and was referred to as a maoist in western reports.
In 1974, the FNLA received a 450-ton shipment of arms and benefited from the assistance of 112 Chinese instructors based in former Zaire. UNITA also was the recipient of Chinese largess. With the end of the Cultural Revolution in the early 1970s, China did provide military training to MPLA commanders and guerrillas but its relationship was unsteady.
Unjustly China was charged with supporting Apartheid South Africa and the United States against the Soviets and Cuba in the Angolan civil war. The Soviet-backed MPLA came to power declaring Angola independent in November 1975, and formal diplomatic relations between Beijing and Luanda were only established in 1983.
In support of the national independence movement in white-minority ruled Rhodesia/ Zimbabwe, China organised a Zimbabwe Day’ rally in Beijing (17 March 1963). The first group of five recruits for the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) went to China for six months training in military science on September 22 1963, led by Emmerson Mnangagwa.
It was followed by a second group, who had basic training in Ghana in 1964, went on to China in 1965 for advanced training as instructors.
China’s emphasis on the formation of united national front with the aim of engaging in concrete positive action against white minority rule. Thus, even though China appeared favourably inclined towards the more radical ZANU, it hoped publically that ZANU and ZAPU would unite in order to consolidate the national movement of Zimbabwe.
In February 1964 when James Robert, a ZAPU leader, visited China on his way to Moscow, China offered a financial contribution of $19,700 to ZAPU. In April 1966, five months after Ian Smith’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence, (UDI) ZANU was the first national liberation movement to launch a full-scale guerrilla war in Zimbabwe/Southern Rhodesia from its bases in Zambia. ZAPU denounced ZANU’s action as “irresponsible”.
China view UDI as an act of the white colonialist authorities to carry on a fascist rule.
ZANU guerrilla fighters trained in China played a leading role in the war.
During early 1966, ZANU sent its third group of guerrillas for training to China. Josiah Magama Tongogara led a group of 11 to the Nanjing Academy in Beijing where they trained in mass mobilisation, strategy and tactics, returning to Tanzania later the same year. Tongogara, who became Commander of the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (Zanla), “learned in China that it was vital to mobilise the people, and it was that lesson which shaped future strategy”.
Reading from the Mao Tse-tung play book on peasant revolutions, the Zimbabwe National Liberation Army (ZANLA) concentrated a great deal of energy on winning over the masses in the rural areas. Attacks were planned and carried out on African collaborators, and just like the government, ZANLA used coercive methods to ensure compliance with the nationalist movement. Mao teachings also influenced battle tactics of the Zimbabwean liberation movement.
In January 1969, a team of eight Chinese instructors arrived at Itumbi in southern Tanzania to train the Zimbabwe African Liberation Army (ZANLA), ZANU’s military wing. One of these instructors, Comrade Li, the infantry expert, played a particularly important role in the evolution of the new strategy.
At Itumbi and other training camps, the recruits learned the meaning of “a people’s war, a people’s army, the objectives of the war and the basic teachings of Chairman Mao on guerrilla warfare . . .
“The Chinese, who by then had 20 instructors at Mgagao, believed that you have got to be matured politically in your head before you go and shoot,” one of the early recruits said later. “I learned that the decisive factor was not the weapons but the people.”
The illegal Rhodesia regime highlighted the communist support given to – the Zimbabwe African Peoples’ Union (ZAPU), and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), noting that since the early 1960’s the numerous visits to Moscow and Peking by leaders of the nationalist groups. The pattern that emerges here is of close links between ZAPU and the USSR and between ZANU and the PRC. Obviously there were para-military and sabotage training, and with the capture of Chinese made AK-47’s, the Smith regime pointed to
“Groups of Rhodesian African nationalists have been trained in camps near Peking and Nanking. Instruction has been given by Chinese military instructors in revolutionary tactics, arms, explosives, sabotage technique, communications and strategy. … Large groups of Rhodesian African nationalists were trained at Half Assini and Abenamadi Camps in Ghana during 1965. [xxvii]
Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) the military wing were supplied arms and provided advisors to train the cadres. Engaged in Chimurenga is a Shona language word for liberation, which entered common usage as they fought a protracted nearly 15 year bush war against the Rhodesian Security Forces drawing support largely from the adjacent African host countries of Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania, Botswana and Angola (commonly referred to as the Front Line States)
The training of ZANU recruits has been carried out in the PRC at established military bases near Peking and Nanking. While the same para-military subjects are taught there as in the Soviet Union, great emphasis is placed on the ‘ideology’ of guerrilla warfare. The Chinese make much of the fact that they ‘won their liberation struggle’ by the same tactics being taught to the African trainees.
“all our militants also receive political training. They study Marxism, Leninism, Maoism, the history of Zimbabwe and writings on either revolutions, such as in Vietnam, Algeria, Cuba, or the Mau-Mau in Kenya. Whenever we can, we spend time on political education, since it is crucial in building and maintaining the morale and good comportment among our guerrillas.” [xxviii]
Josiah Tongogara, the commander of ZANU’s liberation army in Zimbabwe, trained at a guerilla camp at Nanjing’s Military Academy in 1966. The training included two months of education on the Chinese Revolution and communist ideology, months more of training in “mass mobilization, military intelligence, political science, mass media, and guerilla strategies.” More recently courses inside the PRC have been largely replaced by similar training and exercises in Tanzania under Chinese instructors. Also of late, emphasis in this training has been on defense against attack by aircraft and on mine laying and sabotage.
In the final stages of the Zimbabwean struggle for independence in 1979, Tongogara related to a BBC reporter:
When we open a new area, we don’t just go and fight. First of all we make a study – investigation among the masses – they tell us their grievances, and those we exploit and use them…and we explain to them why we have come to them, why you are fighting this war. They have to understand it. [xxix]
Chinese aid extended to the supply of radio stations to Tanzania and Zambia for the purpose of broadcasting against the white-governed countries of Southern Africa, in support of Zimbabwe National Liberation Struggle.
Azania / South Africa
China’s early contact with Southern Africa was with ANC on the occasion of Walter Sisulu’s visit to China (1953). In an interview with the-then African National Congress leader Oliver Tambo in regard to China’s support for the armed struggle to end apartheid in the sub-continent, Tambo spoke on a visit saying that “It was the third time that the ANC has sent a delegation to the People’s Republic of China. The first time was in 1963. I was leading both. [xxx]
Testimony from an imprisoned black African fighter confirmed China’s practical assistance: Sometime in late 1963, according to the testimony, Beijing selected an African named Peter Metchane and sent him for military training in China. Metchane went to Bechuanaland (present-day Botswana) and from there flew to Tanganyika, India, Burma, and finally to China. He was enrolled in the military academy at Nanjing and was trained in the use of antitank mines and other equipment. South Africa sentenced Metchane and another black African to ten years imprisonment for their involvement in armed liberation movements, which was the ultimate purpose of their foreign training. During the trial Metchane testified that “four other Africans” had enrolled at the same time in Nanjing.
Two factors contributed to a more tepid relationship: that the ANC was much influenced by SACP which strictly followed the Soviet international line, and the assistance given by the Chinese to the Pan Africanist Congress, founded as a result of an ideological dispute within the leadership of ANC. Mangaliso Sobuke, PAC’s founder-leader, had been arrested in April 1960 following the Sharpeville massacre. In the early 1960s two PAC missions visited China and returned with $20,000 on each occasion and military training was offered.
Prior to Chinese aid, military training and camps of the Pan Africanist Congress military wing Pogo were based in Maseru in in the mountainous areas of Lesotho without the permission and knowledge of the Lesotho government. The authorities in Lesotho, at the time a British Protectorate, were closely allied with the South African government.
Eventually militants were to travel to the Congo, geographically the nearest independent country to South Africa, and it was here in 1963 that the Kinkuzu camp opened.
The PAC also sent its cadres for training in Botswana and Tanzania. In the early 1960s the PAC enjoyed the widespread sympathy of leaders in most of the newly-independent African countries largely because of the Sharpeville massacre of 1960.
A seven-member PAC “study delegation” (presumably a euphemism for military training) visited China in October 1964, another visit to China by the group under Ntantala followed in April 1967.
Training in China seems to have a significant impact on the PAC in general, and it’s military wing in particular, in that it is clear that the structure of the Azanian People’s Liberation Army (APLA) was based closely on that of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). In addition, the ideological training imparted to members of the PLA was also given to APLA members trained in China. Evidence of this grounding in Mao’s version of Marxist-Leninism was found, for instance, in APLA’s training Field Manual. In China, emphasis was placed on the ideological orientation of the cadres. In consequence, the PAC experienced a major shift in strategy, arguing that APLA cadres, armed with revolutionary propaganda, would carry out mobilisation work amongst the people along with attacks on enemy forces. Unlike the Poqo military phase that was by nature a localised insurrection, based on the Chinese model, APLA elevated its training and ideology and these became critical components of its warfare. Far from being a dedicated maoist formation, the radical hodge-potch of radicalism, Africanist and Marxist sentiments meant the disciplined focus insurrectional force was never constructed, and the PAC played second fiddle to the older ANC. [xxxi]
APLA camps in exile, 1970-1981
The camps in Tanzania were waiting camps to hold trained personnel of the liberation organisations of southern Africa”. The emphasis was on physical exercises and karate. The Chinese trainers provided training in the martial arts, as well as theoretical training. The camp was a joint camp with ZANU. [xxxii]
HoustonI et al argued that the leadership of the PAC, and in particular the conflicts that characterised its history for most of the exile period, were largely responsible for the limited attention the leadership gave to military training and operations, and for insufficient support from the international community for its armed struggle and military camps.
When the internal leadership squabbles occurred in the mid-1960s the young cadres were complaining that they were lost and … they did not know what was happening to the leadership.
It is quite apparent that there was no strategic direction behind the training provided to APLA cadres. The PAC simply took advantage of any offer of training, irrespective of whether it was relevant for strategic reasons.
During the 1970s and early 1980s, APLA cadres underwent training in Libya, Ghana, Guinea, Uganda, Nigeria, Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, Yugoslavia, China and Kampuchea (present day Cambodia).
Zebulon Mokoena underwent another training session in 1976 when he led a group of PAC cadres that were sent to China at the beginning of 1976 “for military training”.110 During the first month of the three-month course the cadres were provided with cultural and political training, including visits to all the relevant historical sites, where they were given lectures on the Chinese revolution and the work of the Communist Party of China. The group was then transferred to Guangzhou, where they were trained on how to establish an underground guerrilla army; to use light weapons manufactured in the East and light to medium weapons manufactured in the West; to manufacture home-made explosives using readily available material; and regimental drill. Mokoena later went to Libya with the SASO group that stayed in Libya for nine months; they were given a course in infantry.[xxxiii]
There were African Maoist groups, like the exiled based editorial team around Ikwezi (1975-1982) under the editorship of Bunsee Bunting and non-Party intellectuals who saw Maoism as a revolutionary universalism, rather than a nationalist ideology of Chinese exceptionalism. Bunting had joined the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) in the early 1960s and was part of the first group that went to China for military training with other PAC stalwarts retaining an ideological affinity with Pan-Africanism and Black Consciousness in the post-apartheid period. [xxxiv]
IKWEZI was a pre-party publication based on Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought working at the stage of the Azania national democratic revolution. Working within the Pan Africanist and Black Consciousness movement, the struggle was seen as both a national and a class struggle against colonial and imperial domination. It was critical of revisionist influences within the mainstream liberation movement, the African National Congress ANC. Ikwezi took a firm stand against Russian social-imperialism regarding it as being the greater danger compared to American imperialism
Bunting returned to China in July 1979 as editor of an IKWEZI Delegation. The magazine subsequently published a talk given us by a member of the Liaison Department of the CPC on China’s Foreign Policy, and later published its critical assessment of the 1981 CPC’s Assessment of the Cultural Revolution and Mao Zedong. [xxxv]
[i] [e.g. Snow, P., (1988). The Star Raft: China’s Encounter With Africa. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Pp. 76-87].
[ii] Drawing upon the analysis detailed in Debeche’s 1987 thesis
[iii] Diario de Noticias, 11 July 1964 quoted in Debeche’s 1987 thesis
[v] Draws on the postcoup publications of the Ghanaian government, Nkrumah’s Deception of Africa (1966) Accra-Tema: THE MINISTRY OF INFORMATION (Ghana); and,Senate Internal Security Sub-committee (1972) Communist Global Subversion and American Security Volume 1 : The Attempted Communist Subversion of Africa Through Nkrumah’s Ghana. Washington: US Government Printing Office
[ix] See: Lumumba Speaks; the speeches and writings of Patrice Lumumba, 1958-1961. (edited by Jean Van Lievade) 1968. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. Available on archive.org.
[x] Investigation conducted by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Activities, under the chairmanship of Senator Frank Church, in 1975. After extensive closed hearings, revealed in its report that the C.I.A. had plotted to assassinate Lumumba and several other foreign leaders and had engaged in a variety of other illegal activities at home and abroad – all this under four Presidents (two Republicans and two Democrats).
See ~ ASSASSINATION PLANNING AND THE PLOTS
The death of UN General Secretary, Dag Hammarskjold in a plane crash in September 1961, shrouded in secrets and lies, was explored in Susan Williams’ Who Killed Hammarskjold? The UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa (2011) London: Hurst & company.
[xi]Le Monde, weekly, No 845, 24-30 December 1964, p. 5
[xiii] “The Nationalist Hails CPR Support of Africans,” Peking NCNA International Service – 1965-01-29, Daily Report, Foreign Radio Broadcasts, FBIS-FRB-65-021.# Such rhetoric covered in reality a more cautious and conservative regime balancing its international relations.
[xvii] Don Petterson (2002) Revolution in Zanzibar: An American’s Cold War Tale. Boulder Westview Press 2002: Page 109
The memoirs of the trials and tribulations of an American Foreign Service Officer , Don Petterson (2002) Revolution in Zanzibar: An American’s Cold War Tale. Boulder: Westview Press, is embroidered with both a defence (against some judgements in Clayton’s work, The Zanzibar Revolution and its aftermath. 1981 London: C. Hurst & Co. ) , an explanation of events from an American perspective and interests, and his own assessment of his experience at the time. Petterson “corrects” Adam Clayton’s assessment of Americans and their roles (Frank C.Carlucci, CIA? No! Highly regarded Foreign Service Officer. Just happened to be serving in Congo when Lumumba murdered and went onto serve as the United States Secretary of Defense from 1987 to 1989 under President Ronald Reagan, having been Deputy Director of the CIA from 1978 until 1981 and US ambassador in Portugal in 1974 following the Carnation Revolution).
US fears of China
During the Cold War in Zanzibar, and later in Tanzania, the US State Department was beset with the fear of ‘Chicoms’. An exploration of American anxieties about China and China’s relations with growing economic strength and burgeoning trade with African countries is for another time. Discussion on what is regarded as a footnote to Africa’s post-colonial history can be found in a few studies e.g.
Amrit Wilson (2013) The Threat of Liberation: Imperialism and Revolution in Zanzibar. London: Pluto Press
Clayton, Anthony (1981) Zanzibar, revolution and aftermath. London: C. Hurst & Co. (Publishers) Ltd.
Don Petterson (2002) Revolution in Zanzibar: An American’s Cold War Tale. Boulder Westview Press 2002
Salma Babu and Amrit Wilson (eds), The Future that Works: Selected writings of A.M. Babu. Trenton: Africa World Press.
[xxvi] China were not without their supporters: in 1963, Viriato de Cruz, then secretary-general of the MPLA and a key intellectual voice, split partly over the China issue and fled to Beijing, where he died in 1973.
[xxvii] Information Section , Ministry of Foreign Affairs COMMUNIST SUPPORT AND ASSISTANCE TO NATIONALIST POLITICAL GROUPS IN RHODESIA SLB/CGR 28 November 1975
[xxviii] Interview with Edward Ndhlovu, ZAPU Deputy National Secretary, Dec. 1974
[xxx] Journal of African Marxists, No. 5, March 1984
[xxxi] Actual performance was disorganisation in the movement as well as a marked lack of resources explored in Military training and camps of the Pan Africanist Congress of South Africa, 1961-1981 by Gregory HoustonI; Thami ka PlaatjieII; Thozama April Historia vol.60 n.2 Durban Nov. 2015
[xxxii] When the PAC’s ally came to power in Zimbabwe in 1980, ZANU decided that it would not allow the South African liberation movements to use its territory as a springboard for operations, nor did it give permission for the establishment of military camps in Zimbabwe.
[xxxiii] A group of new recruits that arrived in early 1977 were sent for military training in China, followed by another group that went to Kampuchea. In June 1977 there were 21 cadres who left Tanzania for Khmer Rouge-ruled Kampuchea under the leadership of Ezrom Mokgakala. The group spent a few weeks in China, before proceeding to Kampuchea. Their initial challenge was to learn the Cambodian language before commencing with training. One member of the group, Sgubu Dube, recalled that:
We were a group of 23 … and spent six weeks in China on orientation on what to expect from Kampuchea because the country had just received independence in 1975. When we were about to start with the heavy machinery like tanks, airplanes and helicopters, the Vietnamese invaded Kampuchea and we had to move from the city to the countryside. That was a very good experience because all that we had been taught we had to put into practice: how to evacuate people … We marched for eight months from Kampuchea going down to Thailand” .
Senate Internal Security Sub-committee (1972) Communist Global Subversion and American Security Volume 1 : The Attempted Communist Subversion of Africa Through Nkrumah’s Ghana. Washington: US Government Printing Office
Strauss, Julia C. The Past in the Present: Historical and Rhetorical Lineages in China’s Relations with Africa. The China Quarterly, 199, September 2009, pp. 777–795
Van Ness (1970) Revolution and Chinese Foreign Policy: Peking’s support for wars of national liberation. University of California Press
Wilson, Amrit (2013) The Threat of Liberation Imperialism and Revolution in Zanzibar. London: Pluto Press
Ajith’s polemical demolition “Against Avakianism” is more than a good critique of erroneous positions and muddled theoretical constructions. In exploring what was fundamentally flawed in packaging a “new synthesis” in the cultist degeneration and revisionism promoted by the RCP,USA, Ajith raises a fruitful exposition of observations and speculations on many topics and questions that constantly face the international communist movement throughout its historic process.
Even in the briefest of treatments – like the section on socialist democracy [102-124] – there is a condensed focus on the lessons drawn and alternative approaches to take in addressing the challenges on the party and socialist state and their operations.
(A more complete presentation on the matter of the party can be found in, The Maoist Party an essay written by K. Murali, also known as Comrade Ajith, from his book Of Concepts and Methods.2020 Foreign Languages Press Collection “New Roads” #9)
Ajith’s critique provides a more inspiring springboard than the work he dissects. In his application of the many insights and observations offered in Mao Zedong’s writings, Ajith corrects Avakian’s distortions and reasserts the creative purposefulness of Maoism.
Amid the discussion around the ideological and theoretical aspects of truth and understanding Marxism as a science, what is clear is the centrality of both the intention and experience of the Cultural Revolution to contemporary MLM. In many of its practices it raised phenomenon and issues that shape an universalist understanding of principles and practices that contribute to human liberation.
Avakian’s claim to go beyond and exceed that experience lies like an image of a by-gone age, a half-ruined folly in the political landscape.
Whereas Ajith pushes forward, not necessarily with complete answers but the interesting questions.
The aim of clarifying the struggle within RIM around Avakian’s attempt to foster upon it his “new synthesis”.
The ambition and vision of RIM as a correct manifestation of internationalism was both attractive and deceptive and other groupings of political allegiance have similarly appeared. The journal “A World To Win” was a platform for organisations providing news and information, reinforcing that sense of internationalism and being part of something much much bigger than parochial concerns. It could raise awareness and organisational abilities, generating international solidarity, co-operation and co-ordination; all powerful elements in sustaining an organisational allegiance to RIM (and the idea of it).
[While Ajith quotes from the (not yet in the public domain) internal journal Struggle to clarify the process that led to RIM’s disintegration, and the subsequent drive to establish a unified international MLM body, important elements are outside the scope of this critique.
But then that is for a different format and publication encompassing a definitive account of the failings of RIM, a political summation, including the input of the PCP after the arrest of Chairman Gonzalo, and the weakening of the “embryo” by the internal struggles over Peru and Nepal, the absences of other major active parties, like in the Philippines etc
A separate website containing links to quoted articles in Against Avakianism has been made available by FLP:
Ajith begins with setting the circumstances of the early 2012 Special Meeting of the parties and organisation of RIM convened by
Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan
Maoist Communist Party of Italy
Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Naxalbari
An original invitee, the PBSP – Proletarian Party of Purda Bangla [Bangladesh] – was absence, later explaining this was due to political differences with the contents of the Special Meeting. were involved in the consultations during the drafting of the invitation, a delegation of the Red Faction of the Nepalese UCPN( M) – struggling against the Prachanda/Bhattarai revisionist line – joined as observers .
[The resolutions adopted at the Special Meeting are available on the Maoist Road website]
The background to the need for the Special meeting had been laid out as
“… the present collapse of the RIM is the result of the paralysis of the Committee of the RIM (CoRIM) arising from positions, serious ideological political differences that emerged among some members of the CoRim.”
RIM – RIM Documents and Statements (bannedthought.net) – had emerged in the 1980s as a Maoist grouping, a self-described “embryo” of a new international. Organisationally, an administrative function was based in London, the CoRIM taking on communication and co-ordination duties, overseeing the publication of the multi-language journal, “A World To Win!”.
The pre-discussion to the Special Meeting had identified the disparaging effects, negatively infecting a line struggle that affected the operation of RIM specifically paralysing the work of the CoRIM. It identified the revisionism of Bob Avakian’s post-MLM new synthesis course and the once lauded Prachanda/Bhattari line that disarmed and disrupted the progress of the Nepalese revolutionary struggle.
Summarising Avakian’s positions and criticisms, Ajith’s “Engaging with the Chairman” defend Mao’s contributions against the view that Avakian’s ideas must be made the basis of the international communist movement. [ pages 12-28] Drawing lines of demarcation as asked, Ajith wrote of the “new synthesis”
“ It has liquidated its ideological moorings by declaring that MLM is outdated and must be replaced with Avakianism.” This was the crutch of the dispute. Furthermore Ajith argued that it was insufficient to simply reactive RIM minus RCP,USA and others that had fallen by the wayside. The original Declaration of RIM was no longer an adequate basis to continue as before, even with a new constituted CoRIM. This did not lessen the need for an international organisation to convey a united revolutionary message and facilitate the development of collective wisdom.
What discernible impact in the real world?
The RCP,USA has failed as a revolutionary project in its social practice. The RCP,USA was flattered by its association with an international grouping that belied its own domestic weakness on the margins of the American left. Its similarities with the Trotskyist cult, the WRP led by Healy, becoming more pronounced with the orchestrated cult of leadership personified in Avakian. A network of bookshops, publishing and newspapers as well as international reach, sustained appearance of organisational strength All these elements partially explain an emphasis on internet-based Leftist news sites as modern equivalents of Lenin’s Iskra approach as the propaganda produced seeks to inspire or produced the desired political effect of building the movement. Far from securing the glow of leadership, Avakian’s well-deserved obscurity reflects the value of the contributions of his RCP’s ruminations-and wranglings.
Foreign Languages Press 2017 “Colorful Classics” #9
John Black (2008) Killing for Britain. Frontline Noir Publishing
John Black’s is a loyalist voice. His views, motivations and judgements are far from supportive of the rights of self-determination for the Irish nation.
He was active at the height of “The troubles” in the first half of the 1970s when a military conflict of annihilation was fought. The military wing of Westminster – the British army – applied its colonial experience on the streets and fields of the Six counties.
John Black’s story centres on one element in the arsenal of repression from the ‘dirty war’ – how state and military intelligences colluded to organise and direct what acted as its proxy death squads, loyalist paramilitaries. Black offers an eyewitness account, albeit an increasingly reluctant participant, in state sanctioned murder. His involvement, and account of state sponsored murder was in defence of the protestant community in Northern Ireland. For him, militant republicanism was clearly the enemy. His activities included joining the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) “in order to defend my homeland from the danger of being overrun by republican terrorists.”
Can you believe what you read?
There is a lot of reconstructed dialogue which is often true of a memoir and questions can be raised about verifiable accuracy. There are the asides mentioning information learnt from reading (for example, Martin Dillion) that supports his narrative. Within a wider context, Black’s account of the Military Reconnaissance Force (MRF) use of loyalist paramilitaries as their weapon to incite a sectarian conflict is an element in wider supporting evidence of hidden collusion and murder at the behest of the Crown forces shrouded in political deniability.
The British state’s dirty war in Ireland has had it contours and some specifics exposed in memoirs, journalistic accounts and even limited official reports. Even Black’s polished account helps build a more complete picture of the mindset of participants entangled in the nefarious intrigues of different British agencies aiming to crush armed republicanism. His account is not so much about the British army as about the proxy paramilitaries trained, equipped and supplied target information by their army handlers. What hit the headlines in May 2021 was more about the behaviour of actual soldiers of the state : Soldiers A and C had their murder trial of an unarmed Official IRA commander Joe McCann stopped on a predictable technicality: the prosecution’s only evidence offered was testimony not taken under legal caution, so rejected as inadmissible by the court. That case related to events way back in 1972.
Likewise fifty years after the event, a Coroner’s inquest in Northern Ireland has declared ten people killed in Belfast during a British army operation in 1971 around Ballymurph were unarmed, innocent civilians and posed no threat to soldiers. There had been the typical disinformation efforts to depict most of the dead as IRA members with contemporary media repeating the army lies of “snipers” being targeted. Amongst the victims, Father Hugh Mullan, a parish priest, was hit by at least two bullets as he read the last rites to an injured man.
“All of the deceased in the series of inquests were entirely innocent of wrongdoing on the day in question,” said the coroner, Mrs Justice Keegan, dismissing claims by soldiers that some of the victims had been armed and shooting”.
The first incident that Black recalls tells of state sanctioned murder when the selected loyalist paramilitaries were trained and supplied for the bombing of McGurk’s Bar on December 6th 1971. Fifteen dead, passed off in the propaganda war as “an own goal” – the supposed result of premature explosion killing the bombers. In 1977, Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) member Robert Campbell was sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the bombing. An official report from February 2011 stated there was no evidence that the RUC helped the UVF bombers; Black says the MRF did. Researcher Ciaran Marsh has written [https:/mcgurksbar.com] on the bombing and the Ministry of Defense’ failure to provide any further information relating to the discovery of a covert military operation close to McGurk’s bar, although it had previously told historic investigators there were no British military units in the area.
The apology for the events to the families of 10 people killed by the British army in Ballymurphy that took five decades to wring out of the British establishment was framed as regrettable “terrible errors” rather than operational policy. It follows on from David Cameron apologising in the House of Commons after the Bloody Sunday inquest in 2010, yet the connivance at the time remains buried, unacknowledged and consigned to an Orwellian memory hole. What were the consequence for Lord Chief Justice Lord Widgery and all?
John Black’s account, for all its confusion and caveats of that day’s unfolding events, states senior British officer “advocated the shooting of unarmed civilians” and again the choice to use the Parachute Regiment was deliberate. Black thought “You are forced to conclude that there were plans for mass murder to be committed that day.” [p136]
To speak of a troubled history without assessing what contributed to causing those times, acknowledging “their long and distressing quest for truth” avoids the focus on those who have evaded and obstructed that odyssey. Ministers may talk of the terrible hurt and then quickly move on until the next unresolved killings has its moment in the media spotlight.
In the unsigned letter sent by ‘The Prime Minister’ dated May 12th 2021 to the families of the Ballymurphy victims, Johnson “apologised unreservedly” as if the public acknowledgement fifty years after the event can divert the divergence between rhetoric and state action.
The killings happened in the days following the introduction of internment without trial and the whole sectarian onslaught, Long Kesh, judge only Diplock Courts, rubber bullets on the streets, H-Blocks, repressive laws and policing followed, accompanying what is played down as “The Troubles” with its secret dirty war and shoot to kill. The public relations exercise of an apology without consequences means nothing.
British deception continues. At the same time there was speculation that Britain could stop any future prosecutions over crimes committed by soldiers in Northern Ireland. The leaked proposal would apply to former members of the security forces and possibly paramilitaries too. There are believed to be up to 700 other former members of the military who could be facing possible charges, and seven cases are already “active”. The Times and the Telegraph reported that British ministers are set to introduce a statute of limitations so that no one can be charged for their involvement in any incidents that took place before the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
Black blends his own (partial) memory of experience with those facts in the public domain, casually repeating and reporting what others said: his army handle Mike’s comments pepper the narrative putting the official view of a few rouge troopers and Martin McGuiness supposedly firing the first shot on Bloody Sunday. He recounts tales of the gung-ho Captain Robert Nairac and provides illustrations of “protestant solidarity” in the UWC strike of May 1974. There is extended recollection of the torture inflicted in UVF’s romper rooms which Black describes as sights of evil. As Black acknowledges, depending on your point of view you believe what you want however that undermines the messy account of blended testimony that an eyewitness is purporting to provide.
While Black can be described as authentic is his description of the emotions and thinking of loyalists at the time, the specific credibility of his account on the indiscriminate terror inflicted relies on believing his unsubstantiated words. In the catalogue of sectarian murders punctuated by OOB (Out of Bounds call) the main thrust of the narrative is “Although Loyalists carried out the attacks, MRF men were in the background, encouraging and synchronising the mission “ p287 In the strands of sectarian conflict, the argument was if Loyalists were killing Catholics and tit for tat, it was not soldiers being sent home in body bags.
That a faction of British Intelligence existed intent to wage the war on its own terms is common currency in many accounts (including self-disclosure: Peter Wright, Colin Wallace Fred Holroyd leading that pack of practioner’s accounts) . Black has “Mike” claiming talks involving British officials are bugged so as to be able to sabotage any perceived threats of sell-out and deals done. As for the feuds stoked by the murderous intervention of MRF and its successors, Mike claims to be operating with political sanction given by Edward Heath.
Black wrote the book to put the record straight. He was arrested in the latter half of 1975 and a process of disengagement from the paramilitary life occurred (without weakening his loyalist identity or sympathies). Black indicates involvement but presents no personally incriminating smoking gun. Generally Black has crafted an account that identifies the crime without conceding personal involvement in a specific incident. There is detail of the collusion, the training at Palace Barracks, the hush hush involvement and nods and winks, the unfolding operation and protection given by the MRF’s code of practice with OOB (Out of Bounds call) that gave an hour free of security force presence in an area. It all goes to illustrate the process of surreptitious, manipulative and deniable but state sanctioned engagement. He adds to the sorry story of the cynicism that surrounds Britain’s suppression of the Irish nation and its peoples.
Another biography of Mao Zedong appeared in the summer of 2020. This was an English translation of work undertaken by the historians of the Party Literature Research Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, and covers Mao’s career in the period, 1893-1949.
The publicity blurb from publishers Cambridge University Press describe it as: “As an extended official account of Mao, and Mao’s thought, this work offers a unique source through which to view the Chinese Communist Party’s portrayal of the transformative events of the twentieth century and Mao’s pivotal role therein.”
This volume, the first of three, is the only biography of Mao written with full access to the Chinese Communist Party Archives to date
Originally published in 2011 in six volumes, the translation is edited by Sheng-chi Shu. It contains an introduction from the western academic Timothy Cheek. He notes,
“This volume comprises the first of three volumes of the English translation of the official Chinese biography of Mao Zedong, Mao Zedong zhuan. The first part was published in 1996 by the CCP Central Committee’s Party Literature Research Office, covering the years from Mao’s birth in 1893 until the start of the People’s Republic of China in October 1949. Jin Chongji (金冲及) is credited as the key editor and main writer of this part.”
Cheek discusses the treatment of Mao and his “living legacy”, framed by what he calls Reform China as ‘the crystallization of collected wisdom in the CCP’, and the political constraints in the historiography involved. Of course the incentive to read is
“The authors have privileged access to Party archives not available to other scholars inside or outside China. It is loaded with information (usually with specific documentary citations) not available in current Western or non-official biographies of Mao.”
So far unread and not bought until its cost is reduced from the retail price £125 – £112 on ebay!
Format Hardback | 1018 pages
Dimensions 160 x 266 x 49mm | 1,740g
Publication date 27 Aug 2020
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Publication City/Country Cambridge, United Kingdom
Illustrations note 3 Maps; 21 Halftones, black and white
Exercising franchise rights, secured by past struggles and sacrifices, in a Covid environment has seen the accelerated tendencies for campaigning politics for bourgeois institutions to focus on the digital, televised and postal delivery of argument and prejudice. The mini-manifesto of the twenty candidates seeking election as Mayor of London were compiled and distributed in a booklet for the 6 May 2021 election (the vaguely interested can explore at londonelects.org.uk) . Sadly not a declared socialist amongst them .
That’s the extent of participatory electoral democracy until another four years.