August 29th 1967~ An Aberrant Episode

In the annuals of Modern Chinese diplomacy it was a blip in the deportment and operation of the embassy Chinese staff in clash with police and pressmen outside the Chinese legation in London. Tension erupted into violence and bloodshed at the Chinese Legation in Portland Place, London, when according to British media, a chanting mob of Chinese diplomats attacked the police and press photographers. The Chinese, wielding iron bars, bottles, clubs and an axe, charged the police who were guarding the rear entrance. Several people were reported injured during the attack.

August 1967 saw a brief explosion of some of the passion and intensity that had been generated throughout the Cultural Revolution upon the back streets of London. It was in a wider context of the struggles within the Foreign Ministry in Beijing that events spiralled outside of the normal diplomatic niceties into violent confrontation.

Floored

29th August 1967: A Chinese who was one of a mob of Chinese diplomats who attacked police and press outside the Chinese Legation in Portland Place, London. His face is splattered with blood and he is being held down on the pavement by a policeman. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

As reported at the time in Peking Review (September 8th 1967)

“BRITISH imperialism, which is rabidly opposing China, in Hong Kong, has recently adopted a series of illegal measures and committed savage acts against the Office of the Chinese Charge d’Affaires and Chinese news and commercial agencies in Britain. Apart from unwarranted restrictions on the freedom of movement in and exit from Britain of Chinese diplomatic personnel and functionaries, and their attempt to cut off normal diplomatic telecommunications of the Chinese legation, the British authorities have called out large numbers of police and special agents for round the clock cordoning off the Chinese diplomatic mission and other agencies in Britain. They have carried out repeated outrageous provocations against the Chinese personnel.”

It had been a tense summer in Anglo-Chinese relations with conflict points in Beijing, Hong Kong and London.

June 1967 saw Red Guards break into the British Legation in Beijing and assault three diplomats and a secretary. British officials in Shanghai were attacked in a separate incident, as the PRC authorities attempted to close the office there.

Throughout June–August 1967 there were mass protests in Hong Kong, and during riots in July People’s Liberation Army troops fire on British Hong Kong Police, killing 5 of them.   The commander of the Guangzhou Military Region, Huang Yongsheng, secretly suggests invading Hong Kong, but his plan was vetoed by Zhou Enlai.

On 23rd August 1967, a Red Guards sacks the British Legation in Beijing, slightly injuring the chargé d’affaires and other staff, in response to British arrests of Communist agents in Hong Kong. A Reuters correspondent, Anthony Grey, was also imprisoned by the Chinese authorities regarded as retaliation for the earlier imprisonment of communist journalists by the British in Hong Kong.

The Times

In reporting the violent incident outside the Chinese Embassy in Portland Place on 29th August 1967, the British press reports wrote of members of the Chinese Legation threatening the police with assorted utensils, of Chinese diplomats armed with iron bars and bottles attacking the police and members of the press who were waiting at the rear entrance of the embassy, in a confrontation histrionically (and briefly) labelled “The Battle Of Devonshire Close”. Pictures captured staff members of the Chinese Legation standing in front of a large portrait of Chairman Mao Tse Tung shouting anti British slogans outside the Legation in Weymouth Street. Others showed members of the Chinese legation surround a police Special Branch car in Portland Place during a violent dispute over its presence outside the legation’s offices. Some of the officials are holding copies of ‘Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong’.

 

“In the face of the brutality by the British police and special agents, Chinese legation personnel fought back in self-defence, fully displaying the courage of our Red soldiers in the diplomatic service, who are armed with Mao Tse-tung’s thought.”

Peking Review (September 8th 1967)

portland place

trophies

The clash in Devonshire Close lasted five minutes, the static stand-off all-day. An earlier fifteen minute battle, broken up by the police, had been fought in the front of the Chinese Legation between “ruffians” and Chinese officials.

***

An Aberrant Episode:

Red Diplomats Armed With Mao Tse-tung’s Thought Are Dauntless

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.” What’s Left? What’s Right? by Muriel Seltman

Accusations and mistrust in pro-China anti-revisionism in Britain was very evident with the MLOB explaining events through a conspiracy prism as a result of intrigues against them and in favour of all the elements 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.” See: Report of the Central Committee of the M.L.O.B. On the Situation in the People’s Republic of China. London: Red Front Special edition, January 1968

After all, no mention was made in the ‘publication of recognition’, the daily bulletins of the Hsinhua News Agency, of the Action Centre for Marxist-Leninist Unity, nor 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.” – Red Front, January 1968

Drawn from, Sam Richards The Rise & Fall of Maoism: the English Experience (2013)

portland placeSource: Peking Review

…….Meanwhile, back in China

The convulsive moment in London had domestic roots in Mao’s ambiguous call to “revolutionise” foreign affairs. Like much of the Cultural Revolution experience, spontaneity rather than a planned programme lay at the heart of the confusion that ensued. It is easy to inject here a quotation from Mao that “revolution is not a dinner party”, that mass movements have their own dynamics and that, as Mao acknowledged, things develop unexpectedly and beyond any individual’s control. Behind this incident was the fervour of what had arisen from the mass struggle for supervision that characterised the Cultural Revolution. It is tempting to judge the clash in London as a by-product of the Cultural Revolution on the mainland given the timing and context of the event. However one should question the superficial attribution by cold war warrior, Arthur Cohen when he argued that central was Mao’s craving, an egotistical desire to disseminate to foreign countries “Mao’s cult” (in his 1968 CIA study, on Red Guard Diplomacy). There was a purpose to the propaganda activities of Chinese missions abroad seeking to demonstrate their loyalty to Mao Zedong Thought [see earlier posting, Reaching Out: Global Maoism].

Mao Zedong / Mao TseTung, on 9 September 1966, declared that in all foreign affairs offices abroad there should be a ” revolutionization” ~ The immediate consequence of Mao’s ambiguous instruction was an increase in study sessions , concealment of signs ‘ of “luxury” living , and according to Cohen, more anti – social behaviour during diplomatic functions for personal of all Chinese Oversea mission.

For a year, from the summer of 1966 until September 1967, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Peking headed by Chen Yi had come under verbal and physical challenges by local Red Guard organisations, identified later by Zhou Enlai /Chou En-lai as the Foreign Language Rebel regiment determined to carry the Cultural Revolution into the foreign affairs system

In December 1966, China had begun recalling ambassadors and senior embassy staff members back home; by late spring of 1967, only Ambassador Huang Hua in Cairo remained at his post; other embassies were left in the control of charges d’affaires. Consequently this raised questions about the morale and effectiveness of the foreign service.

In response to Mao’s call to “revolutionise” there was a ready-made target in China’s foreign minister, Chen Yi .In his self-criticism of January 24, 1967, Chen said:

“At the inception of the Great Cultural Revolution movement, I did not comprehend this Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. At that time the impact of the mass movement was overwhelming, and I did not have the proper ideological preparation for it. . . . I was apprehensive about the impact of the mass movement, fearing that it might jeopardize order and affect foreign affairs work.”

The self-criticism was first published in Huna-Wei-Pao (Red Guard Newspaper), February 8, 1967; translated in “Ch’en Yi’s Self-Criticism,” Chinese Law and Government, Vol. I, No. 1, Spring 1968, p. 54.

The ultra-left Red Guard contention in the dispute with Chen was his firm hostility to carrying the Cultural Revolution into foreign affairs circles. Chen’s intent was to maintain a relatively moderate course in foreign affairs, which in particular meant that embassies were not to become centres for ‘making [cultural] revolution” in foreign countries,  and continued adherence to the principle of non-interference in others affairs.

The guidelines for struggle distinguish between foreign relations and foreign policy. In interventions to stabilise the situation and deflect the attacks on Chen Yi, Chou En-lai was tireless in his efforts to minimise the disruption and damage to the foreign ministry, maintaining in meetings with Rebels the Central leadership’s position endorsed by Mao that that the Red Guards could oversee the Ministry’s work and criticize Chen Yi, but could neither take over operation of the ministry nor “overthrow” its head.

Red Guards’ response was a violent one. On May 29 about 300 of them representing one of two rebel groups raided the Ministry, forcibly removed classified material from safes. The Red Guard posters containing this information indicated that Chen Boda / Ch’en Po-ta had to intervene to demand the return of the classified state materials.

The radicals reached the peak of their power in August 1967 when they apparently gained control of the Foreign Ministry when Yao Teng-shan, the last Chinese charge d’affaires in Djakarta, who returned to Peking in April 1967 , apparently took over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for two weeks in August. Yao Teng-shan, until late April 1967, had been the ranking CPR official in Indonesia as charge’ d’affaires ad interim. On April 28, he and Hsu Jen, the consul general in Djakarta, were declared personae non gratae by the Indonesian Government and ordered to leave the country. They were declared “red diplomat fighters” and given heroes’ welcomes. Virtually every leading member of the government (except Mao), including the entire hierarchy of the Foreign Ministry, was reportedly present to greet them at the airport.

xinhua news item

Before Yao Teng-shan brief reign ended, apparently coincident with the sacking of the British chancery in Peking, he had “wrested power from the Foreign Ministry’s Party Centre” and had “sent cables to the [Chinese] embassies in foreign countries without the permission of Chairman Mao and Premier Chou.”

The practical consideration reinforced the argument that Yao Teng-shan interim had violated China’s guiding foreign policy principles and that extremist influence in the Foreign Ministry and in the Foreign Service was doing irreparable harm to China’s image abroad as when the British embassy was occupied by Red Guards.. The mission, first been besieged on June 9, was on August 22, was set on by Red Guard and completely gutted it. The British charge d’affaires and several of his staff were reportedly beaten when they rushed out of the building.

Red Guards mass outside the British embassy gates in Beijing during the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s.

Red Guards mass outside the British embassy gates in Beijing during the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s.

Yao Teng-Shan was not heard from again after the August 22 Red Guard assault on the British chancery. Unofficial channels in Hong Kong subsequently related that these acts were conceived by Yao Teng-Shan, not the Peking leadership, and were responsible for his being labelled soon after as a man of mad personal ambitions. Subsequently, (June 21, 1971) The New York Times reported, on Yao Teng-Shan fate:

PEKING, June 20—A prominent Chinese diplomat accused of having been responsible for violence against foreign embassies committed during the Cultural Revolution has been imprisoned, according to reports circulating in Peking.

The diplomat, Yao Teng shan, was a member of a revolutionary group that was in control of the Foreign Ministry in August, 1967, when the office of the British charge d’affaires was burned and attacks were made on the Indonesian and Burmese embassies.

Mr. Yao, according to the reports, was taken June 11 to a mass trial in an indoor stadium in Peking, attended by 4,000 people, and denounced, He was said to have been accused of plotting in 1967 to do personal injury to Premier Chou En‐lai and of holding Chen Yi, then Foreign Minister, as a prisoner for several days.

The mass denunciation has not been mentioned in the press. However, foreign diplomats have become aware of the trial through a number of Africans and Asians who said they had been invited to attend.

The extraordinary proceedings were seen as an effort to relieve the Government of responsibility for excesses com mitted during the most convulsive stage of the Cultural Revolution, which have been a source of embarrassment. Premier Chou, who is pursuing a new pragmatic foreign policy, has been at pains to portray China as a responsible member of the world community.

Peking is seeking to strengthen its diplomatic ties in its efforts to isolate the Chiang Kai‐ shek government on Taiwan and also to gain admission into the United Nations as the sole delegation of China. Recently diplomats of non‐Communist governments have been shown new courtesies in Peking, such as being taken on more tours of the country. And in the last week army guards stationed at embassy gates have begun saluting chiefs of mission.

It was understood that Premier Chou had privately expressed his regrets to John D. Denson, the British chargé d’affaires, about the 1967 attack on the British office. Donald C. Hopson, who was then chargé d’affaires, was injured in scuffles with extremist Red Guards.

The way now seems open for an exchange of ambassadors between Britain and the People’s Republic if London closes its consulate at Tamsui, in northern Taiwan, and gives full backing to United Nations membership for Peking. At pre sent, the British and Chinese are represented in each other’s capitals at the charge d’affaires level.

In a further move to absolve the present Government of any responsibility for violations of diplomatic immunity during the Cultural Revolution, articles in the Chinese press in recent weeks have attacked leftist extremists as plotters against the Communist party and the, government.

In December, in a conversation With Edgar Snow, the American writer, Chairman Mao Tse‐tung said he was not in control of the Foreign Ministry in 1967 and 1968.

Liu Shao‐chi, the chief of state, was deposed in 1967 after Red Guards denounced him and his supporters in the government and the party.

Mr. Yao became a leading member of an extreme lefist faction that took over the Foreign Ministry after he re turned from Indonesia, where he had been charge d’affaires.

According to some reports, Chen Yi, former foreign Minister who disappeared for a number of years, attended the mass meeting, Mr. Chen, who is still a vice chairman of the influential military affairs commission of the party, showed up for the Mat time in many months at May Day celebrations this year. Chi Peng‐Fei, who is now identified as acting foreign minister, was also said to have been present at the denunciation

Zhou Enlai was quoted by a Red Guard newspaper as explaining the circumstance :

I supported the Foreign Ministry in the Central Committee [in August]. When the Foreign Ministry went to the brink, I held a meeting … I was directly responsible for running the Foreign Ministry and as a result they seized power from me. They sent telegrams directly to foreign embassies. As a result they were sent back. Yao Teng-shan went everywhere making reports and creating trouble. He went to the Ministry of Foreign Trade once. His report to the Ministry of Foreign Trade was incorrect,and was very provocative. I criticized him on the spot. The Central Committee- put forward the slogan of “Down with Liu, Teng, T’ao.” He put forward the slogan “Down with Liu, Teng, Ch’en.” How can you as a cadre at the head of department level [Yao may have become deputy head of the General Service Department of the Foreign Ministry upon his return from Indonesia] put forward such a slogan? Who gave you permission? As for sending telegrams to embassies, no one understood this. You [rebels] always want to do everything in such an absolute fashion.  ~ Huing-Wei-Pao, September 15, 1967

The general judgement is that before a semblance of order was restored to the Foreign Ministry in the autumn of 1967, its operations had been disrupted, the Foreign Minister had been subjected to unprecedented abuse and humiliation, and China’s diplomatic presence abroad had been tarnished. The aftermath reported in western intelligence briefing:

trxt

Chen Yi emerged from the prolonged encounter with his position intact defended, not only by Chou Enlai but also Comrade Chiang Ch’ing (Jiang Qing, often referred to in western publication as Madame Mao).

“Chen Yi has carried out the Chairman’s line. He has fought some good battle, and fought extremely well in the c a p t u r e of Shanghai. All the same, he has said some incorrect things. He is not, however, a plotter, and when he has made mistakes, he has corrected them a bit.” (Jiang Qing ‘s speech to Red Guards on 10 January 1967)

*****************************

This episode is  explored in “The Foreign Ministry and Foreign Affairs during the Cultural Revolution” by Melvin Gurtov (a re-working of his work for the Rand Corporation) published in The China Quarterly No. 40 (Oct. – Dec., 1969), pp. 65-10. Further investigated in the 1998 Routledge publication, Chinese Foreign Policy During the Cultural Revolution by Barbara Barnouin and Yu Changgen, which deals, in part, with the internal effects of the Cultural Revolution upon the Ministry of Foreign Affairs based largely upon interviews with former Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff and rebel leaders that were conducted in Beijing between 1991 and 1993. An interesting foreign policy overview can be found in Chinese Foreign Policy during the Maoist Era and its Lessons for Today by the MLM Revolutionary Study Group in the U.S. (January 2007)

https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-5/cpc-policy.pdf

 

Olive Morris (1952-1979)

October is Black History Month in the UK

worked as a feminist, anti-racist community organiser and squatting activist throughout the late 60s and 70s in south London . This short biography of south London based anti-racist community organiser Olive Morris throughout the late 1960s and 70s was adapted from Emma Allotey’s original piece.om


Olive Morris was born in Jamaica in 1952

  • She lived in South London from the age of nine
  • Olive was a member of the British Black Panthers
  • She was central to the squatter campaigns of the 1970s
  • She left Tulse Hill Secondary School without any qualifications and later went on to study at the London College of Printing and at Manchester University.
  • During her student years in Manchester (1975-78), Olive also became involved in the community struggles in Moss Side, contributing to the formation of the Black Women’s Mutual Aid and the Manchester Black Women’s Co-op.
  • She helped to set up various women’s groups, including the Brixton Black Women’s Group and the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent

In 1979 Olive Morris died of non Hodkin’s lymphoma aged 27 at St Thomas’ Hospital. She is buried in Streatham Vale Cemetery.


One early example of Olive’s political activism was when she intervened into the arrest of a Nigerian diplomat for a parking offence in Brixton in November 1969. She was physically assaulted and racially abused by the police and was arrested, along with six other people, fined £10 and given a three month suspended sentence for two years. The charge was assault on the police, threatening behaviour and possessing dangerous weapons.

Olive became a member of the youth section of the Black Panther Movement (later the Black Workers Movement). The Brixton Panthers had their headquarters at Shakespeare Road in a house that was bought with money donated by John Berger when he won the Bookers Prize. Members of the Brixton Black Panthers included:

Althea Jones    – medical doctor
Farukh Dhondi – broadcaster and writer
David Udah    – church minister
Darcus Howe – broadcaster
Keith Spencer – community activist
Leila Hussain – community activist
Olive Morris    – community activist
Liz Turnbull    – community activist
Mala Sen         – author
Beverly Bryan – academic and writer
Linton Kwesi Johnson – writer and musician
Neil Kenlock   – photographer and founder of Choice FM London

sabarr

Olive was also a founding member of the Brixton Black Women’s Group. Many political organisations were based in and around Brixton, which was a venue for counter-culture political activity.

Olive was also a squatter and squatted 121 Railton Road, in Brixton in 1973. She was photographed scaling a wall on the cover of the Squatter’s Handbook. The squat became an organising centre, until closed in 1999, for community groups such as BASH (Black people Against State Harassment) as well as housing Sabarr Bookshop, which was one of the first Black community bookshops.

In 1975, Olive moved to Manchester to study a degree in Economics and Social Sciences. She was a member of the National Coordinating Committee of Overseas Students, which campaigned for the abolition of fees for overseas students; off–campus, she was involved in the work of the Manchester Black Women’s Cooperative and the Black Women’s Mutual Aid Group.

Olive visited Italy and Northern Ireland in 1976. In 1977, she visited China and wrote a piece entitled “A sister’s visit to China” which explored the role of China in anti-imperialist struggles. It was published in Speak Out! The Brixton Black Women’s Group newsletter.

Olive, along with Stella Dadzie and others, founded the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent (OWAAD) in February 1978. OWAAD held its first conference at the Abeng centre on Gresham Road in Brixton. (The Abeng Centre was a centre that Olive helped to establish along with Elaine Holness and other members of the community; it is now renamed the Karibu Centre).

After University Olive returned to Brixton, working in the juvenile department of the Brixton Community Law Centre where she was involved in the campaign to scrap the SUS laws.

She criticised the strategy of the Anti-Nazi League focusing on fighting the far right, while largely ignoring the impact of institutionalised racism on the lives of Black people: the role of the police, educational system, etc.

Don Lett, a member of the Movement explains in an interview by Greg Whitfield, that

“It all seems so easy now, the very word just rolls off your tongue, “Black British”, but for awhile back there, it wasn’t so simple you know? Fundamentally the Black British and the Black American experience was different, right from source. Black Americans were dragged, screaming and kicking, from the shores of Africa to an utterly hostile America, whilst my parents, they bought a ticket on the ‘The Windrush’ bound for London! So, right off, you have it there, a major fundamental difference. So even though I attended the Black Panther meetings, proudly wearing my Angela Davis badge, read “Soul on Ice”, there was still so much more that we needed to do. It’s true that we became aware, became conscious in many respects and that was partly due to those Panther ideologies, but the total relevance of that movement just didn’t translate into the Black British experience.”

MORE AT https://rememberolivemorris.wordpress.com/about/

newspaper


 

Research Note ~ Caribbean Workers’ Movement

October is Black History Month in the UK

The struggle within the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination and the transformation of the pressure group towards advocacy of Black Power in late Sixties Britain needs no retelling as it was recorded in The Politics of Powerless (Heineman (1972) IRR/Oxford University Press). That account explored the personalities and issues involved. This note looks outside it three years tumultuous existence to focus on the drivers of radical change identified in the standard narrative as Johnny James and Ralph Bennett. Both men were founders of the London-based CARIBBEAN WORKERS’ MOVEMENT in 1965. Bennett was general secretary; James, head of publications. Both were political workers for Labour Party activist, Dr. David Pitt in his Greater London Council (GLC) constituency of Hackney. (In 1975 Prime Minister Harold Wilson was to appointed Pitt to the House of Lords as Lord Pitt of Hampstead). They were co-opted at Pitt’s insistence onto the Executive Committee of C.A.R.D. – Campaign Against Racist Discrimination. James was assistant general secretary for membership and chairman of the International Committee. Their impact on the civil rights lobbying group reflected the growing radicalisation of self-organisation and political advocacy within Britain’s immigrant communities against the racist discrimination experienced in British society. The turn to community action was not as new as contemporary commentary would suggest. What was heard loud and clear was the anti-imperialist sentiments and concerns expressed.

Johnny and Ralph were both editorially involved in the single sheet one penny newsletter published from 1965 to 1967 by the Caribbean Workers Movement. In August 1965 the Caribbean Workers’ Weekly editorial asked:

“What are the principles which guide truly socialist actions? What would be expected from Socialist leaders, parties and groups?
The overriding feature of their policies and actions must be the furthering of the interests of all working people against their implacable enemies, in our case world imperialism led by US imperialism and British Imperialism with their local stooges.”
(Caribbean Workers’ Weekly Vol 1 # 7 August 1965)

Reflecting left-wing Marxist attitudes of some of what are now referred to as the ‘Windrush Generation’, the newsletter covered a wide-range of topics, including parliamentary democracy, economic power, maintenance of the colour bar, Caribbean politics, and the use of British military forces in the Caribbean. The publications of the CWM was concerned with promoting ‘true’ socialism to the island countries, to campaign for national independence , to defeat the common enemy – imperialism, led by the ruling classes of the USA, Britain, France and others and domestically, reflective of their internationalism, to participate “in all anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, and anti-fascist activities for the benefit of working classes in all parts of the world, thus playing our proper role in the international working class movement against imperialism.”

The first issue of Caribbean Workers’ Weekly appeared July 1965 with the front page news calling for ‘Hands Off Dominica’ and comments on Jamaica’s economy and the Commonwealth Conference. The reverse has thinly-detailed article on the Klu-Klux Klan in Britain, and more substantial piece on ‘US aggression in Vietnam’. That formula was repeated in subsequent issues.

carib

The focus of the newsletters was mainly on Britain and those in power in the Caribbean – articles on the use and abuse of political, policing and military powers, as well as corruption and financial largesse within capitalist regimes abound – but wider global concerns are reflected too, with many articles and cartoons attacking the pernicious influence of the United States in Caribbean affairs. An editorial on parliamentary democracy wrote of shedding illusions in the wake of “what flimsy structures these imperialist devised constitutional institutions proved to be.” Economic power it asserted remained with the monopolists, and it questioned the treacherous Caribbean leaders “how much easier the job of imperialists is made with local stooges to do the jobs for them.”

The Vietnam War, the rise of Black Power in the USA, and the Cuban Revolution and its support for those overthrowing the Anglo-American imperialist yoke are all covered.
Its audience was those who “escape from overwhelming unemployed and destitution by emigrating to the metropolitan country as cheap labour.” [The Carib Vol.1 No.5 February/march 1965]

Amongst the activities it carried were advertisements for film shows of Cuba’s “Island Aflame’ in the Labour Hall in Stoke Newington, and a fund-raiser party at Benthal Road both in the North London N16 district. There were monthly meetings at the Lucas Arms, the venue that marked the open declaration of the anti-revisionist movement with the creation of the Committee to Defeat Revision, for Communist Unity that some members of the CWM had been involved in. The CWM, working in a similar field, continued to reflected those early anti-revisionist concerns with the Caribbean Workers’ Weekly exposing an activist, P.Sealy, as “a Caribbean stooge of the revisionist CPGB” [Caribbean Workers’ Weekly #41 April 16-23rd 1966]. The opposition to the politics of “The British Road”, the CPGB’s political strategy was evident in the position taken by the CWM on domestic and international issues. The newsletter argued,
“there is no fundamental difference between the Tories and Labour government since they both want capitalism.” [Caribbean Workers’ Weekly #38 March 26th-April 2nd 1966].

Vietnam was a weekly solidarity feature carrying reports on the war and agitation support. There were explicit and trenchant criticism contained in its articles. Typically, the article, headlined “Struggle – defeat Imperialism” wrote of the “bloody nature of imperialism, particularly US imperialism” and the need to “distinguish false friends from true friends… We are struggling resolutely for unity among Caribbean anti-imperialists.”
Using the mimeographed technology of the day, the CWM produced other literature, along with the demanding schedule of the weekly Caribbean Workers’ Weekly. There was the CARIB that carried more lengthy Marxist analysis. The Carib saw its first issue in July 1965, a stencil and staple publication of roughly 12-16 pages, published with the then recently re-badged tag ~ Caribbean and Latin American Workers.

The Carib generally appeared every two months (although it had gaps through an irregular publication schedule). There was a series called Caribbean Organisations for Mass Political Education, which covered scientific socialism and Caribbean history.

Originally from Guyana, in north-eastern South America, Johnny James, active within the London Left, had contacts with other small left-wing pro-Peking organisations in London. Principal amongst them was another anti-revisionist group, the London Workers’ Committee led by elderly general practioner, Dr Alexander Tudor-Hart, which produced the monthly Workers’ Broadsheet. The radicalising Universal Coloured Peoples’ Association led by Obi Egbuna, a Nigerian-born novelist, playwright and Marxist- pioneer of the Black Power movement in Britain. See: https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/uk.secondwave/bufp-blf.pdf

Along with these groups and individual supporters, Heinneman argues that for varying reasons related to internal IWA (GB) politics, James also secured the cooperation of the Indian Social Club in Southall in the struggle to transform CARD into a more militantly active organisation. He judged that James, the “40-year old accountant” communist, had always been orientated towards realising radical change in the home islands than towards eradicating discrimination in Britain.  [Heineman (1972) The Politics of Powerless. IRR/Oxford University Press p197]

An alternative evaluation would illustrate the cross fertilisation within London’s anti-revisionist milieu as James, preceding his emergence at the contentious CARD convention in 1967, had an established political record that included involvement in the Communist Party as a London District Committee member from Stoke Newington. Johnny James had been expelled from the Communist Party of Great Britain.  James, along with 14 signatories had associated themselves “with the principled stand” and “fundamentally correct ’Appeal to All Communists’”, Vanguard, newspaper of the CDRCU, critics of the revisionist communist party, carried a statement in solidarity stating the party leadership had substituted insults for serious political discussion, indulged in “vulgar lies” “damaging slanders,” “scurrilous practice”.

ACTIVE IN CDRCU


After the departure of the editorial team of Evans and Jones, Johnny James was a named editor of Vanguard (along with Dave Volpe, Jack Seifert, and Michael McCreery). The fluid nature of parts of the anti-revisionist movement in London was illustrated by some of the dual membership held at that time by The Carib editorial team. They were simultaneously active in both organisation sharing similar political outlooks and orientation. It was not only in the pages of Vanguard that displayed their sympathies: Paul Noone, John James and Dave Volpe were the CDRCU’s platform speakers for the release of arrested Indian communists at a Conway hall meeting in March 1965.

Carib was advertised in Vanguard (Vol1 #9 October 1964) and carried a three part article by James described as a lecture to “advanced cadre of the Guyana National Liberation Movement”. (See: Vol 1 # 8&10). In his article “We Must Fight Racism”, James wrote unsurprisingly dismissively of government initiatives ,

“Let us call upon the Labour Government to act against racism not just talk: and let us expose it when it fails to act. Only the mass struggle of the people can stamp out racism and Fascism.” https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/periodicals/vanguard/1-11.pdf

Ahilya Noone (of Carib’s editorial team) submitted articles on Cuba and a substantial piece called “Women under capitalism” raising the demand “to free her from the shackles of domesticity” (Vanguard Vol 2 #1 January 1965). Not only her and James’ presence provides evidence of the symbiotic relationship as Paul Noone, also on the editorial team of Carib (and later a member of the London Workers’ Committee) joined Vanguard’s editorial team after McCreery’s death, However John James was no longer on the editorial team by the start of 1966. His comrade Paul Noone was still there but his published article “Some Methods of Work” [Vol 3 No.1 1966] was headed “Polemic”.
Noone shortly departs amidst the disintegration of the CDRCU. Work continued on The Carib before its demise sometime in 1967. That year developments within the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination had preoccupied the activists’ time.

James was once more in the public limelight with the events at CARD labelled as one of the dangerous Maoists. James “always wore a Mao button on his lapel” according to Diane Langford’s memoirs, a volunteer in the CARD office.

CARD’s November Convention

The influence of the input of grassroots radicalism was evident at the third annual convention of CARD at Conway Hall on November 4th 1967. Delegates gathered before posters of radical organizer Robert Williams, who advocated armed Black self-defense, and Pan-Africanist organiser and Kenyan Independence leader Jomo Kenyatta. They stood before signs that reflected some mantras of CARD’s early history, declaring, “Outlaw racial discrimination. Provide effective laws,” but also ones that imagined new features for the organisation, including one that stated, “Black Power means liberation, not integration as third-class citizens.” [Kennetta Hammond Perry (2016) London is the Place for Me: Black Britons, Citizenship and the Politics of Race. Oxford University Press p240]

Reflecting a consciously internationalist approach to anti-racism that would incorporate the struggle against imperialist rule, the radical coalition clashed with those whose domestically orientated approach was limited to state-sanctioned integrationist measures. In line with the words of Mao Zedong, “The evil system of colonialism and imperialism arose and throve with the enslavement of Negroes and the trade in Negroes, and it will surely come to its end with the complete emancipation of the black people”  James contended that the majority who viewed their plight as part of a wider freedom struggle were frustrated by what he described as “white liberals and a few Uncle Toms” who did not support internationalising CARD’s mission.

The Convention ended with the election of a new, predominately Caribbean national council, described in a hostile media, in the words of Anthony Lester QC, a member of the Society of Labour lawyers and one of the defeated leaders, as “a racialist takeover” of CARD. In a press statement issued in November1967 by Johnny James, one of the organisation’s newly-elected militant black leaders, had all the hallmarks of a Black Power perspective.

“Let it be quite clear that I do not like speaking to the white imperialist press reporters’, James began,’ because by nature they have to lie and distort everything one says to carry out the orders and wishes of their masters’?
(Quoted in Rosalind Eleanor Wild (2008) ‘Black was the colour of our fight’ Black Power in Britain, 1955-1976 p74 ~ PhD Thesis University of Sheffield)

At the following December’s delegate conference David Pitt retained the chairmanship of the organisation but the liberal minority abandoned the organisation, and walked out.
In the aftermath of CARD, the activists were united in the London Workers’ Committee, which emerged from the demise of the CDRCU and fusion in 1966 of the “Islington Workers’ Committee” with a group based in South London. In May 1968, the LWC formed the “Working People’s Party of England” led by a team with an ex-communist veteran from the Spanish Civil War Chairman, Alex Tudor-Hart and with Jonny James as Foreign Relations Secretary. His fellow group member, Dr Alex Tudor-Hart was a new officer of CARD following the routing of the liberals, joining Johnny James (Assistant secretary and organiser), CWM members S. Ennis and Ralph Bennett. And there were other individuals involved from the anti-revisionist movement (like Ranjana Ash) whose contributions were less publicised but no less significant.

 


END NOTES
The Movement for Colonial Freedom
The centre of CWM activities was a small top floor office near King’s Cross at 374 Grays Inn Road courtesy of the Movement for Colonial freedom, a leading anti-colonialist campaign group and civil rights advocacy organisation. Founded in 1954, headed by Fenner Brockway, it was an amalgamation of the British Branch of the Congress Against Imperialism, the Central Africa Committee, the Kenya Committee and the Seretse Khama Defence Committee. The MCF challenged pro-Empire views within the labour movement and wider British society and sought to make the moral and political case for international labour solidarity and decolonisation. The anti-revisionist London Political Organisation contact address was Evan Gibbon’s, a member of the Communist Party in Vauxhall, who was expelled by the London District Committee in March, 1964. He was on the Central Council of the Movement for Colonial Freedom.
At times the MCF shared its cramped London office with representatives of various independence movements, including the Uganda National Conference, the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union and the Zambian United National Independence Party. This reflected the increasingly transnational political and personal networks of the 1950s and 1960s which involved British left-wing activists and nationalist, socialist and anti-colonialist immigrants and exiles from European colonies present in Britain. The three-way relationship between the Labour Party, the MCF, and the CPGB and the “taint of communism” for mainstream political respectability saw the creation of a number of other single-issue campaign groups, including among others the Anti-Apartheid Movement (UK), the Committee for Peace in Nigeria (established during the Nigerian Civil War) and British Council for Peace in Vietnam, the Chile Solidarity Campaign Committee, War on Want and the World Development Movement. In 1970 the Movement for Colonial Freedom was renamed as ‘Liberation’.
Obi Benue Egbuna (1938–2014)
Nigerian novelist and short-story writer, educated at the University of Iowa and Howard University, Washington, DC. He lived in England from 1961 to 1973, where he became involved in the Black Power movement. Radical and impassioned, Destroy This Temple: The Voice of Black Power in Britain (1971) describes his spell on remand in Brixton Prison and the general political turmoil during this time. The problems he encountered when he returned to Nigeria are described in The Diary of a Homeless Prodigal (1978). He retained his Pan-Africanist politics throughout his life. His first novel, Elina (1978; first published as Wind versus Polygamy, 1964), caused great controversy in its sympathetic portrayal of a polygamous chief. Other novels include The Minister’s Daughter (1975), which sets a young student against a corrupt government minister; and The Madness of Didi (1980) in which the eponymous former priest and college professor, a thinly disguised self-portrait, is a hero to the young, but due to his radical past faces suspicion when he returns to his native village. All Egbuna’s novels display a sardonic sense of humour, as did his play The Anthill (1965). His collections of short stories include Daughters of the Sun (1970), Emperor of the Sea (1974), and The Rape of Lysistrata and Black Candles for Christmas (1980).

Lived in London: Uncle Joe

young stalin

There are tales that you want to be true.

The Crown Tavern on Clerkenwell Green, Farringdon, is reputedly where Stalin and Lenin first met in 1905. Lenin worked in Clerkenwell as editor of the revolutionary paper Iskra (The Spark) from 1902 until 1903. The office was at 37a Clerkenwell Green now the Marx Memorial Library. Stalin, having met Lenin at a 1905 conference in Finland, visited him that year in London, and local legend has it that they used to talk together in the Crown and Anchor pub (now the Crown Tavern) on Clerkenwell Green.

“Alas, this is a myth” according to Dr Sarah Young .” Stalin most definitely wasnot at the 1905 congress. Even the sycophantic Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute biography of Stalin, which tries its best to affiliate Stalin to Lenin’s victories and decisions from the earliest possible stage, doesn’t manage to place him at the scene, and states that the two men first met at the Bolshevik congress in Finland in December 1905-January 1906”.[i]

However, Stalin was in London in the April/May of 1907 attending the Fifth Congress of the Russian Social Democratic and Labour Party, along with the likes of Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg. Stalin’s account of the Congress can be found in his Notes of a Delgate that are full of the factional polemics and debates , that according to Stalin’s report “ended in the victory of “Bolshevism,” in the victory of revolutionary Social-Democracy over the opportunist wing of our Party, over “Menshevism.” [ii] Of London, there is an absence of detail or impressions made upon the young revolutionary.

According to most accounts, Stalin lodged at Tower House, Fieldgate Street, Whitechapel one of six hostels built to provide cheap and clean accommodation for people who flocked to London looking for work.

Stalin paid sixpence a night for his  stay at Tower House — described by the author Jack London as a “monster doss house” in People of the Abyss. Tower House is still standing in Fieldgate Street, Whitechapel, now a smart refurbished block advertising loft-style apartments.

Robert Service got it wrong when he describes “a certain Ivanovich took up lodgings at 77 Jubilee Road. “[iii]. There is no such place in the East End; he means Jubilee Street that runs between Whitechapel Road and the Commercial Road, Tower Hamlets. Service says the landlords spoke Russian.

On arrival in London, Stalin and the others registered at the Polish Socialist Club on Fulbourne Street off the Whitechapel Road across from the London Hospital. Observed by Special Branch detectives and excited journalists, they received their sparse allowance of two shillings a day, guidance on how to find the main Congress, and secret passwords to avoid Okhrana infiltration. The venue for the 1907 RSDLP congress was the Brotherhood Church at the corner of Southgate Road and Balmes Road, Hackney. There was also supposedly a Bolshevik caucus held at the socialist club in Fulbourne Street, off Whitechapel Road on 10 May.

Three hundred and thirty six delegates took part between April 30 and May 19 1907. Stalin did not speak during the entire Congress. He knew that the Mensheviks, who hated him for his truculence and banditry, were gunning for him as part of their campaign to ban bank robberies and score points off Lenin. When Lenin proposed the vote on credentials, Martov, the Russian Menshevik leader, prompted by Jordania, challenged Stalin, Tskhakaya and Shaumian.

There is a rich in detail and colourful account of his stay in London in chapter two of The Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore which traces Stalin’s journey, disembarking at Harwich, and “Legend says he spent the first nights with Litvinov, whom he now met for the first time, in the Tower House hostel on Fieldgate Street, Stepney, … Its conditions were so dire that Stalin supposedly led a mutiny and got everyone rehoused. He was settled into a cramped first – floor backroom at 77 Jubilee Street in Stepney, which he rented from a Jewish – Russian cobbler”  shared with Mikhail Tskhakaya and Stepan Shaumian. The house on Jubilee Street no longer exists.

Service draws upon recollections of Arthur Bacon, to The Daily Express in January 1950, as a Stepney working-class boy had met “Mr Ivanovich” in 1907. Young Bacon earned pocket money by running errands for the congress delegates. The revolutionaries needed messages to be discreetly carried from house to house before going up to Hackney. For each job he received a halfpenny. But Mr Ivanovich gave him half a crown. Young Arthur responded by taking him toffees. He remembered to the end of his days the bushy moustache, the knee-length boots and the friendly attitude.

Bill Fishman, perhaps the best expert on these events in London, would tell the story of how Stalin chatted up a young Irish woman on an evening walk by the Thames. The young woman’s male companions took exception to the foreigner’s advances and set upon Stalin with fists and sticks. [iv]

Simon Sebag Montefiore recalls, “Litvinov supposedly rescued him. According to his daughter, Litvinov joked that this was the only reason Stalin later spared him, saying, “I haven’t forgotten that time in London.”

Stalin probably saw little of London outside of the East end. When the Congress ended, Stalin and Shaumian remained in London to nurse Mikhail Tskhakaya, who had fallen sick. “I had a temperature of 39 or even more,” recounts Tskhakaya, so Stalin and Shaumian stayed on “to care for me because we all lived in one room.”

There are tales that you want to be true.

There is a legend among Welsh Communists that, after the Congress, Stalin forsook his nursing duties to visit the miners of the Valleys: after all, his 1905 stronghold, Chiatura, was a mining town. But despite a miraculous blossoming of sightings of “Stalin in Wales” among the Communists of the Rhondda during the Second World War, there is not the slightest evidence that he visited Wales. Besides, he had not yet invented the name “Stalin.” But he was also supposedly spotted on the docks of Liverpool, a Scouse version of his encounter with the London dockers. Simon Sebag Montefiore writes: Sadly, “Stalin in Liverpool” belongs with “Stalin in Wales” in that fabulous realm of urban mythology, regional aspirational fantasia and leftist personality cult.”

After about three weeks in London, Stalin spent a week in Paris before returning to Imperial Russia. Today Stalin’s face returns courtesy of the CPGB (ML) in the May Day Parade in London streets.

stalin banner

[i] http://sarahjyoung.com/site/2011/01/16/russians-in-london-lenin/

[ii] https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1907/06/20_2.htm

[iii] https://www.standard.co.uk/home/stalins-east-end-7382559.html

[iv] https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/was-revolution-planned-london

 

56. Lived in London : Uncle Ho

Born Nguyen Sinh Cung [1890-1969], HoChi Minhlater he was known as Nguyen-Ai-Quoc, and before, as a young man in Paris, embracing a radical internationalism[i], Nguyen stayed in south east England, taking on jobs as a waiter, baker, and pastry chef. Prior to arriving in England, Nguyen had arrived from Vietnam firstly in France in 1911, before traveling on to New York and Boston in 1912.

He moved to Paris France in 1919  where political awakening saw Nguyen-Ai-Quoc (the later known as Ho Chi Minh) speaking at the foundational congress of the French Communist Party in December 1920.

HCM-paris1-1

Before he served his revolutionary apprenticeship in France, Ho arrived in London in 1913, living in West Ealing and Crouch End, though the addresses are unknown, and spent several years there before moving on to Paris, Russia and China, before returning to French occupied Vietnam.

Little is known about Ho Chi Minh’s time in England, according to Quynh Le from the BBC’s Vietnamese Service [ii] ,”His time in Great Britain is among the least documented of his life. We don’t know exactly when he worked at the pub, or how long he was there,” said Quynh Le, adding “He wasn’t very political at that time.”

An official ten-volume chronology notes only that President Ho shovelled furnace coal when he first arrived in London. After a two-week illness, around February 1914, he took work at the Drayton Court Hotel on The Avenue in West Ealing .Nguyen worked in its kitchens, as a cleaner and dishwasher.[iii] The hotel was and still is a pub owned by Fuller’s.

He then went on to work at the Carlton Hotel at the Corner of Haymarket and Pall Mall, (later destroyed during the 1940 bombings and its replacement is New Zealand House, a modern office building) which has a plaque commemorating his time there placed by the Britain Vietnam Association.  It is suggested that he was “probably working as a pastry chef”[iv]

So it was entirely conceivable that Ho Chi Minh  did work as a pastry chef on the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry in the year following the First World War [v]. Indeed, a statue of communist leader Ho Chi Minh has been given to a Sussex town when the Vietnam Ambassador to the UK, Vu Quang Minh, unveiled a bronze statue at the town’s museum in May 2013.[vi] There is scant supporting evidence to support this but Newhaven council is using its link with Ho Chi Minh as part of its tourism drive.

It was during the six years that he spent in France (1917–23), he became politically active under the name Nguyen Ai Quoc (“Nguyen the Patriot”), and started his revolutionary course that saw his name chanted throughout the world, as anti-war protestors gave voice to Ho Chi Minh.

And in his own words, why he embarked upon that political journey, an article from Ho Chi Minh, Selected Writings 1920-1969, Foreign Language Publishing House , Hanoi 1977 : THE PATH WHICH LED ME TO LENINISM.

[i] Ian Birchall, The Young Ho Chi Minh.

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/09/vietnam-paris-nguyen-ai-quac-le-paria-french-left-de-gaulle

[ii] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/3725891.stm  May 18th 2004

[iii] Retracing the steps of Ho Chi Minh October 11th 2005 http://www.ealingtoday.co.uk/shared/conhist07.htm?site=2

[iv] Ditto.

[v] Tom Batchelor Ho Chi Minh in Newhaven April 5th 2015 The Independent Online

[vi] Ho Chi Minh ‘friendship’ statue unveiled in Newhaven. May 19th 2013 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-sussex-22587514

 

woodsmoke