Archive for January 4th, 2010


“the devil and mr casement” – talk by jordan goodman, 23/01/2010

Author and Historian Jordan Goodman speaks on “The Devil and Mr Casement: A Crime Against Humanity”

Saturday 23rd January 2010 at 2pm Marchmont Community Centre, 62 Marchmont St, London WC1 (Near Russell Square Tube).

In September 1910, Roger Casement arrived in the Amazon to investigate reports of widespread human rights abuses committed by a British registered company in the vast forests stretching along the Putumayo River. There, the Peruvian entrepreneur Julio César Arana ran an area the size of Belgium as his own private fiefdom, operating a systematic programme of torture, exploitation and mass murder against his employees.

Casement sought to expose the international collaboration that allowed these appalling atrocities to take place, tracing links all the way to the heart of the City of London and Stock Exchange.

Jordan Goodman, former honorary research fellow at the Wellcome Trust, will describe this courageous expose of British imperialism by the future Irish revolutionary Roger Casement.

The talk will be followed by discussion. All welcome. The meeting is supported by Verso, the publishers of Jordan Goodman’s new book, “The Devil and Mr Casement”


Jonathan Carritt on Bill Carritt and Communist Party electoral strategy

I found an election poster in a cupboard recently. My father, Gabriel “Bill” Carritt, was flown home from the battle for Mandalay to take part in the 1945 general election. He had been in Burma since 1944 serving with the Welch Regiment, 19th Indian “Dagger” Division of the XIV “forgotten” Army.

He stood as the Communist Party candidate in the Westminster Abbey constituency and got 17.6% of the vote. He had contested the same constituency in a by-election in May 1939 as the candidate of a united front of Labour, Communist, Liberal and anti-Chamberlain Conservatives, campaigning on the single issue of collective security against appeasement and winning 33% of the vote. This by-election aroused national interest with even a couple of anti-Chamberlain ministers (probably including Churchill) secretly funding the campaign.

Jonathan Carritt, Chiswick

This kind of support may seem unlikely but at that time my father was secretary of the League of Nations Union Youth Movement and at some point in 1939 Churchill had invited the leaders of various British youth movements to lunch at Claridges to discuss opposition to fascism, collective security and the possibility of a united campaign. Those attending included John Gollan of  the YCL, Ted Willis, leader of the Labour League of Youth, Garner Evans of the Young Liberals, Gordan Cree, secretary of the Guild of Cooperative Youth, Timberlake representing the League of Nations Union Student Movement,  my father from the LNUYM, Mary Owen, a leftwinger from the YWCA, a representative of the YMCA and one from the Student Christian Movement. Churchill asked each guest in turn to speak on how to proceed in the current situation. The only one to be confrontational was Ted Willis. As a result of this meeting, money or a campaign was made available through Duncan Sandys, Churchill’s son-in-law.

In the local elections which were held later in 1945 my father, my mother Dr Joan Carritt and Joyce Allergant were all  elected as Communist councillors for the City of Westminster. They served until 1949 when they lost out to the growing Cold War hysteria. The figures quoted are taken from “Parliamentary Elections and the British Communist Party, a historical analysis 1920-1978”. Date of publication is given as June 1978. The author is not named but comments, criticisms and corrections were invited to “C. Ravden, 1 Bushberry Road, London E9”. This booklet is itself of some interest. It was produced “as one branch’s effort to raise money for the National Fund and as an attempt to look analytically at the party’s parliamentary elections. Hopefully it will help party members judge the electoral fight as well as providing a few pages of party history.”

Throughout the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s there was constant questioning of the wisdom of devoting a high proportion of the Communist Party’s resources and effort to contesting parliamentary elections in a first- past-the-post system. The sub-heading of the booklet “£68,000 well spent?” perhaps indicates that this was a particular branch’s way of diplomatically expressing its reservations. £68,000 was, it claimed, the amount handed to the Exchequer by the Communist Party in lost deposits at parliamentary elections. “It is also roughly the amount collected each year for the CP’s National Fund. it….amounts to little more than a £1,000 for each year of the party’s existence. However, it is a lot of money to spend without care.”


Correspondence: Tom Bailey

60 Years On – The Legacy of Mao Zedong

Sixty years ago the Chinese Communist Party came to power, creating the People’s Republic of China, with Mao Zedong proclaiming “The Chinese People have stood up”. The 60 years of rule by the CCP have seen great triumphs and achievements for the people of China, as well as great tragedy and loss; the biggest of which being the Great Leap Forward.

The attempt at the great tasks and goals of the Great Leap nevertheless should be viewed in their historical context. The 1950s had been a decade of many victories for China, with successes in the growth of industry, collectivisation of farms, increased grain yields, and the defeat of US troops in the Korean War. What had seemed impossible had become possible under the new collective system.

Unfortunately the same was not true for the Great Leap Forward, “catching up with Britain” overnight was not possible. However, the impact of the weather in causing the famine and failure of the Great Leap Forward should not be forgotten. For example, in June 1958, a rainstorm with a precipitation of 249mm caused over 20 rivers to overflow and wrecked nearly 70 dams and reservoirs. In June the following year there was also freak weather conditions in some parts of the country as heavy rain caused considerable damage to crops. In July 1960, a hurricane ravaged the whole county ruining nearly much of the harvest.

Although the famine caused an unacceptable number of deaths, and this should not be ignored, the number of deaths should be put in perspective. The crude death rate in China in 1958 was 11.98 deaths per 1000. The famine then caused this rate to rise to 14.59 in 1959 then peaking at 25.43 in 1960, then declining to 14.24 in 1961. The great rise in death rates is surely a stain on the CCP’s record and on Mao’s too; however, it should be noted that in 1936 the crude death rate per 1000 was 28 – a number that not even the worst year of the Great Leap Forward famine reached.

Although in 1936 the Nationalist government was in a civil war with the Communist guerillas, as Minqi Li notes in his The Rise of China, the Nationalist Government, “Probably only surveyed and reported data from areas under its own control, which were comparatively peaceful and better-off”. Even so, in 1960 a normal year in India, a country that won its independence at a similar time as the PRC, yet had not been ravaged by as much war and civil war as China, the crude death rate was 24.6 per 1000, only 0.8 lower.

January 2010